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MA Overtime Laws and On-Call Pay Massachusetts

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  • MA Overtime Laws and On-Call Pay Massachusetts

    I work in an IT Dept for a large health care org in MA. I am also part of an on-call rotation 2 months a year.

    When I am not on-call, I get my regular rate for regular hours, and 1.5 times that rate for OT over 40 hours.

    However when I go on-call, I get paid my regular rate for regular hours, and also $3/hr to carry the pager. That gives me 14 hours each workday, and 24 hours each weekend/holiday day of on-call pay at $3/hr. But when I work OT during the week, when I am on-call, my company lowers my OT rate to near 1.25 times my regular rate, while my paystub still reads OT at 1.5 times regular rate.

    I called my payroll dept last time I was on-call and they said they have to adjust it because I am on-call, and it was required by MA Fair Labor Laws.. I was new and didn't want to start something I could have been wrong on...though I feel I should have stood up for myself, even as the new guy. But a few people I know say that it's wrong to adjust my OT rate, and that I should be paid all my OT worked hours at the full 1.5 times regular rate.

    I looked online at the "official" MA Labor Laws website, but I don't really know exactly where I would find anything covering OT rates while on-call...

    Does this sound right to anyone with better knowledge?

    What exactly could I point out to tell them they are ripping me off, if they are?


  • #2
    MA does not care how time is allotted, as long as your paycheck has the right number of dollars in it at the end of the week. On-call time does not have to be paid at all, unless you are called in to work or your time is severely restricted, but if you are carrying a pager it is unlikely that you are considered to be severely restricted.

    I can't tell from your description if this is happening. But if, at the end of the week, your paycheck totals your regular rate of pay for the first forty hours that you worked plus time and a half for any hours over 40, both Federal and state law will consider that you were paid correctly. Neither of them cares anything about your being paid a premium to carry a pager, or how the math matches up to what your pay stub says. What the law, both Federal and MA, cares about is if your TOTAL wage comes to the amount they consider to be correct, and not how that amount was arrived at.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      Ok..that makes a little more sense, although I still call BS.

      I understand I'm not required to be paid for having the pager, but I look forward to making more money for these two months, and it makes working OT less rewarding somewhat...but I still wind up on top I guess, making more than I normally would have. Last time it amounted to a good amount over my regular pay I was used to... and I've since received a 3%, merit increase, so the numbers should still be good.

      Thanks for the explanation. When I called payroll, they just said it's the way it is and they couldn't change it...


      • #4
        It sounds like they are factoring the $3 per hour into your regular rate of pay for the workweek along with your normal pay rate hours. (Total pay divided by total hours gives what is defined as "regular rate of pay or RRP" that OT is calculated off of) This would definitely bring your OT premium down.

        Example: 40 Hours at $20 per hour plus 24 hours at $3 per hour = 64 hours with a total pay of $872; divide $872/64 hours to get RRP of $ any overtime hours would be paid at a premium of $6.82. Where weeks where you only work for $20 an hour would be paid the OT premium of $10 per hour. That is legal as long as the total pay meets minimum and OT basic rates. And that you know about the pay agreement prior to working the hours (which you do).

        What you might do is calculate actual worked hours during those weeks where you carry a pager and see how that compares using the normal wage (and that OT rate)without any $3 carrying wage. See how that compares to what you are actually getting. I suspect the employer has done the calculations and the $3 works out to be close to equal what 40+OT would be for actual hours when you look at the data on a lot of employees over time. It just keeps them from having to track hours as closely. And arguing over whether specific time should be paid or not.


        • #5
          Thank you all for the replies. I just don't agree with the law. It just sounds like the Gov't is trying to protect me, while I'm trying to maximize my paycheck.

          So would it be safe to say, that while on-call, I shouldn't work any OT because I won't really get my time's worth? I would much rather sleep in, versus work 10 hour days and feel I'm getting ripped off.

          How much OT would I need to work in order to get above whatever rate my OT pay is being calculated at? Let's use a rough figure of $30/hr for a base pay rate.. On-call pays $3/hr, 24/hrs for weekend day, 14/hrs for weekday, plus 2 hours OT if pager goes off..but let's assume the pager doesn't go off at all for the entire month, which is very common here.

          I figure there has to be some point where my pay rates have balanced or equaled...Or would my OT rate just continue to drop to near or below my base rate?


          • #6
            I can help with the calculation.....but do you mean you get 14 hours at $3 for each workday or 14 hours at $3 for the workweek? And how many overlap hours between the two pay rates do you have each day? Because during those hours, your rate would be $33, not $30 or $3. $3 would be those hours where you weren't getting paid anything else. I agree there is probably a break even point, just a mathematical formula with a few unknowns...if you answer my questions above, I should be able to answer yours.


            • #7
              Refusing to work OT when asked could get you fired which would be legal. I understand you are upset but think about possible consequences before you act.


              • #8
                @ HRinMA - No risk of losing job. The OT I'm working is 100% voluntary. I do it to make more money on my take home pay.

                @ HR for me - I get the $3/hr, for 14 hours per day during the week. My shift is for a basic 8 1/2 hour day(8 work, 30 min lunch), from 8:30 to 5:00...but I typically come in around 7:00 and work until 5:00, which gives me 8 hours reg pay, plus 1.5 hours OT. I'm not sure of what any overlap hours would be.


                • #9
                  I tried to do some calcs and typed them up for you and sent them by private message. You should have a notification up at the top right that you have a private message. Let me know if you dont' get it.


                  • #10
                    Thanks much for the calculations. It makes sense, but is still confusing...if that statement makes sense.

                    I suppose I could try not working any OT next week, and enjoy my mornings a bit more, and then see what I get from just my regular 40 hours plus on-call pay. Then I would know the difference between the two figures... but I think you're right. I do make more when on-call, just not as much as I think I should..

                    Thanks again.. I only go on-call 2 months a year, 2014 is June and this isn't going to be a huge problem. I was just curious about the numbers, and wasn't happy with the canned response I got from my own HR/Payroll people...


                    • #11
                      You are welcome. Even I had issues when I first tried to put the calcs down in a spreadsheet. I am sure they have programmed it into payroll by someone else and possibly don't really understand it themselves. It does get complicated.



                      • #12
                        Just a reminder; under neither Federal nor MA law are you owed a single penny for carrying a pager. You are ONLY owed on-call time when you are actually called in to work.
                        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


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