California On-Call and Standby Time Policy 2024 – All You Need To Know

Frank S. Clowney III

Many California employees have straightforward shifts between 8 and 10 hours. However, some employees have more complex hours, including employees who are on-call or on standby for their job. These employees are not actively completing their job duties, but they must be available in case they are called into work.

This arrangement is necessary for many jobs with late or long shifts, and it does have flexibility benefits. However, it can also restrict an employee’s free time. In some cases, it restricts their time enough that they legally deserve compensation for on-call or standby time. This may even contribute to overtime hours. It’s essential that employees get the compensation they deserve for their time.

When Is an On-Call or Standby Employee Entitled to Pay?

An on-call employee is legally entitled to pay if they are engaged to work and their time is subject to their employer’s control. An employer is not required to pay an employee their standard rate for on-call compensation, but the pay can’t be less than the minimum wage.

An employee may be engaged in personal activities during their on-call time, but this doesn’t automatically mean they don’t deserve compensation for that time. Whether or not an employer has significant control over an employee’s time depends on several factors as determined by the court:

  1. If an employee is required to be on the job site or if there are excessive geographical restrictions on their movement. When an employee is required to remain on the work site or is not allowed to be far from work during their on-call time, they should be compensated. Whether a geographical restriction is considered excessive depends on the unique circumstances of a case.
  2. How frequent calls into work are. If an employee frequently receives calls to work that are unduly restrictive, then their time is not under their control, and they deserve compensation. However, if an employee’s on-call time is not often interrupted by calls, compensation may not be necessary.
  3. If there is a fixed response turnaround. When an employee must be at work in a short period of time after receiving a call, then they can’t use their time to do personal activities. This time should be paid.
  4. Whether an employee can trade their on-call work with another employee. If an on-call employee cannot easily trade their on-call work with another employee without receiving negative consequences, then their time should be compensated.
  5. If an employee’s time is primarily spent completing personal or business-related activities. If an employee spends much of their on-call time completing work or their free time is frequently interrupted, they are entitled to compensation.

Determining when an employee’s time is compensable depends on the specifics of their situation. If on-call time should be compensated, then it must be paid at least minimum wage and included in overtime calculations. However, on-call time that is not compensable does not count toward these hours.

Jobs That Often Use On-Call and Standby Time

On-call and standby times are often necessary in fields with unusual hours or long shifts. For example:

  • Healthcare staff such as doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical staff often have multiple-day shifts that require them to remain at the hospital while they are taking breaks or sleeping. Healthcare staff may also need to be available at their work in a short period of time after being called in to work.
  • Firefighters often have to remain on-site at a fire station for long periods of time. They may not be actively working, but they are required to be ready when given notice.
  • Security guards often have to work long shifts on the premises. They may not be actively responding to disturbances for their entire shift, but they must be ready to.
  • Coroners are needed within a certain amount of time after someone has died, usually within 24 hours.
  • Restaurant employees may be on-call in case the dinner rush requires more staff.

In most of these situations, employees are not able to use their time for what they want, so their on-call time must be compensated.


Q: What Is the Policy for On-Call Standby Time and Pay in California?

A: When an employer has a significant amount of control over what an employee does with their on-call or standby time, then the employee deserves compensation for those hours. Significant control is determined based on how much of the time the employee has to complete personal activities, whether they are required to stay on-site or if they have to stay within a certain distance from the job site. Though the employee doesn’t have to earn their regular rate of pay for standby or on-call time, they do have to get at least minimum wage.

Q: What Are the Rules for On-Call in California?

A: On-call workers are generally employees who work odd hours. They may not be actively doing work, but they have to be available at any moment for work-related duties. On-call professions include healthcare workers or firefighters who must remain on the job site when they’re not working. It also includes nurses or professionals who have to remain nearby and available in case they are called into work. If an employee must remain on-site or has a short time frame in which they have to be available, they may deserve pay for their on-call hours.

Q: What Are the New HR Laws in California in 2023?

A: California labor laws in 2023 raised the state minimum wage to $15.50 for both large and small employers. It also expanded retaliation protections for employees in emergency conditions. New laws also changed how overtime pay was calculated for agricultural employees, added bereavement leave as a form of protected leave, and increased the required pay reporting transparency for employers.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Standby and On-Call?

A: An employee who is on-call or on standby is doing the same thing under California employment law. Each refers to an employee who works odd hours and must be available to work at any moment, but they are not actively working. However, employees who are unable to use their on-call or standby time as their own are owed compensation for that time.

Let an Employment Attorney Help

If your employer won’t pay you the wages you have earned, a San Diego employment attorney can protect your worker’s rights. Contact The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney, III today to see how we can help you.