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84 Iowa L. Rev. 351 (1998-1999)
Achieving Justice for On-Call Workers: Amending the Fair Labor Standards Act

handle is hein.journals/ilr84 and id is 365 raw text is: Achieving Justice for On-Call Workers:
Amending the Fair Labor Standards Act
Elizabeth D. Feigin*
Imagine that you are an employee responsible for maintaining crucial
medical equipment. In addition to your regular forty-hour workweek, your
employer requires that you remain available to repair equipment whenever
the need should arise. You must wear a beeper at all times and you must
plan your off-duty hours so that you will arrive at your workplace within
twenty minutes of a page. In sum, you must restrict your personal time in
expectation of work. Some would agree that such conditions are acceptable,
and do not substantially interfere with your personal time. However, if you
were the only worker on call, and you have been on call for nearly one year
without relief, individual perceptions would likely change. I
Determining whether an employee is entitled to compensation for
time spent on call is a contentious issue, involving the competing goals of
enforcing the statutory rights of workers and maximizing businesses' prof-
its.2 An on-call employee may be permitted to leave the workplace, but
must remain available to work.3 There exists a presumption against com-
pensating these employees, particularly when employees are allowed to
leave the workplace during on-call time.4 This presumption is rebuttable
only where extraordinary circumstances compel courts to award compensa-
However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA),!' even in ex-
traordinary circumstances, courts do not generally award compensation for
time spent on call.6 This result is contrary to the FLSA's purpose of rapidly
* Law student, University of Iowa College of Law. I thank Jason Befus, my life parmer,
and my parents Louise Davidson and Stephen Feigin for their encouragement and support.
1. This hypothetical is based on Bright v. Houston Northwest Medical Center Survivor, Inc.,
934 F.2d 671 (5th Cir. 1991) (holding that the time plaintiff spent on call is not compensable
under Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act). For a discussion of this case, see infra notes
84-97 and accompanying text.
2. See Michael Jilka, For Whom Does the Clock Tick: Public Employers' Liability for Overtime
Compensation Under Federal Law, 63J. KIN. B. Ass'N 34, 37 (1994) (noting that the issue of on-
call compensation is one of the most common arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act).
3. See generally MARK A. ROTI-IS 1EIN ET AL., 1 EhiPLOYMENT LW 347 (1994) (describing
circumstances of on-call employment).
4. See id. at 207 (noting that on-call employees who are permitted to leave the workplace
during on-call hours are rarely compensated).
5. Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938,29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 (1994).
6. See infra notes 84-97 and accompanying text (discussing Bright, which involved ex-

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