Should Overtime Pay for Nurses Include On-Call Time?

Nurses often wonder whether they should be paid for the time that they spend on call. The answer to that question depends on whether hours spent on call are classified as hours worked according to a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The FLSA governs compensation, such as regular and overtime pay for nurses.   

In general, compensation is based on hours worked in a consecutive seven-day period.  Hours worked in excess of 40 are considered overtime hours and are paid at 1½ times your regular hourly rate.   

Healthcare professionals are often required to be on call at various times of the week or month.   Being on call generally means that you need to be available by pager or phone to take calls from work.  In addition, it means you may be required to go in to work if needed.  

When on call, some healthcare professionals are required to remain at work in an on-call room.  Others may be required to live very close to work and be able to get to work very quickly after being called.  On-call specifics can vary greatly depending on the policies of your workplace.

The FLSA contains general guidelines to determine whether on-call time should be included in regular and overtime pay for nurses and other healthcare professionals.   Whether on-call hours are included in your hours worked is determined on a case-by-case basis.  Largely, it depends on the degree to which being on call infringes on your normal daily activities such as household chores, shopping, or going out to dinner. 

In general, on-call hours may not be considered hours worked if:

  • You do not have to stay at work, but have to let them know how to get in contact with you.
  • Your employer prohibits you from drinking alcohol or engaging in other activities while on call, but you can still use the time to do normal activities.

On-call hours may be considered hours worked if:

  • You have to remain at work or so close that you cannot use the time for normal activities.
  • Your employer interrupts you so often that you cannot use the time for normal activities.

On-call situations vary by workplace.  Regular and overtime pay for nurses should include on-call time if that time is considered hours worked according to the FLSA.  If you think you are not being properly compensated for your time worked, contact the Texas overtime attorneys of Kennedy Hodges toll free at 888-449-2068 for a free consultation, or order a free copy of our wage and overtime book today.