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CO-calling shift work "on call" time- illegal? Colorado

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  • CO-calling shift work "on call" time- illegal? Colorado

    If anyone is willing to read the whole, long thing- thank you! Please give any advice.

    I work for a human services agency. By law, there needs to be coverage24 hours a day. The night/weekend team originally consisted of seven workers. Each night we would have one primary worker who took all calls (child abuse referrals) and document them and would respond to emergencies and issues with children already in foster care. The backup worker would often not get any calls, but both workers would regularly get investigations to work on (going to the home to find families). We were also expected to follow up the next day to any of the calls we took. The average number of calls on a night would be 8-10 and the worker would have to respond to emergencies in the middle of the night approximately 4 times per month. Weekends consisted of two workers, and one would be primary one day and backup the next and vice versa. The primary shift was 16 hours long on weeknights and 24 hours long on weekends. However, we were only credited for 10 hours on weeknights and 15 on weekends. We were required to be available for enough hours besides our scheduled hours to equal 40. For example, if we worked one primary shift and one back up shift, we were on call for 32 hours, but only got credit for 20 hours (10 each night) and had to be available 20 more hours. Because we had to follow up on the calls we took, we carried caseloads of 10 to 15 cases per month, which entails extensive home visits, hunting down clients, etc...
    This became increasingly difficult because it is not unusual to get 9 calls per 16 hour shift, and each call requires phone interviewing, inputting the referral, checking lexis nexis, etc. This could make each call last almost an hour.
    This became very difficult and half the workers quit. We now have four workers and would like to have the schedule changed in the following way- We now are each working two shifts per week with no backup worker. This gives an average of 32 to 40 hours per week during our shifts, and does not include the time spent on paperwork and court that happens after we respond to emergencies. We are now only taking calls and responding to emergencies. All calls that come in and are not emergencies get passed back to the day staff.
    The dilemma- Some of the supervisors and a person in HR are claiming that thsi is illegal to give us actual hour for hour credit for our shifts. Us workers are stating that because of the number of calls we get, the frequency of them, and the fact that we have to answer all calls within 15 minutes and respond within an hour if it requires an in person response, we are waiting to be engaged, and should get credit for the time we are on call. We also believe that these are our working hours, not on call hours required in addition to a regular work schedule.

    Does anyone have an opinion?

  • #2
    Are you exempt or nonexempt? What exactly are your duties? Are you a licensed counselor of some sort?
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


    • #3
      We are social workers who investigate child abuse and we are exempt.


      • #4
        How about Patty's Are you a licensed counselor of some sort? question? This is important because based on what you have said (so far) it is not really sounding like you should be Exempt.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


        • #5
          We are exempt, and this has been used by the Department to explain why. It's a fairly accurate description of our job duties. As far as being licensed goes- we are not because Colorado does not require one. I worked in another state and did this exact job and had to be licensed.

          I understand that being exempt means our employer can make us work however many hours they want. What we are strugglng with is the fact that the other caseworkers who do our job during regulary business hours are required to be available 40 hours per week. Many work 4 10's, some do the every other friday flex, etc....

          We are now required to be available much more than 40 hours. The old calculation probably worked for a long period of time and there were not calls in the middle of the night that oftern. However, we now average much more each night (described in original post). At one point someone suggested just having all the day workers take turns being on call. This was immediately shot down by the supervisors, who stated that would be too hard because the probability of the worker being up all night and need to either come in late so they could sleep would be too high.

          I really appreciate you all trying to help me out.
          Last edited by lcnm; 07-15-2009, 10:45 AM.


          • #6
            Sorry, no law is going to force the employer to change the scheduling or how you are assigned. And since you are exempt, you are not legally entitled to any additional compensation.

            I'm not unsympathetic, I'm sure this is a very hard job and, especially if you work for a government entity, you're getting more and more pressure to do more in less time and for the same (or less) money. I'm sure this is also why you hear about the high rates of burnout in this profession.

            It's just not an issue that is addressed by any law, one way or the other.
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


            • #7
              Do you know why HR keeps saying it is illegal then? Doesn't make sense since we are all exempt.


              • #8
                It is not illegal to provide comp time to exempt employees. There is no LAW that says that.

                I will admit, however, that I understand that some district courts have decided that providing hour-for-hour comp time to exempt employees may invalidate the exempt status; some courts, though, have determined that it makes no difference one way or the other. Maybe the former is why they're saying that? Don't know, just a guess.
                I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


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