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95 Mich. L. Rev. 2633 (1996-1997)
On-Call Time under the Fair Labor Standards Act

handle is hein.journals/mlr95 and id is 2653 raw text is: NOTE

On-Call Time Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
Eric Phillips
Economic pressures, changing family structures, and technology
have increasingly blurred the line between work time and personal
time. The rise of independent contracting, the growing number of
families in which both parents work, and the expanding reach of
computer networks, fax machines, pagers, and mobile telephones,
to provide a few examples, have blurred the once-familiar distinc-
tion between work time and leisure time.1 This distinction is partic-
ularly unclear for on-call employees.
An on-call employee is one who may be physically away from
the workplace but who remains connected to it by telephone,
beeper, computer, or radio, and who must respond to the employer
if caled.2 While on call, an employee generally does not face the
constraints he may face while on a regular shift at his employer's
premises. He may be able to go shopping or watch television dur-
ing his on-call hours, for example. At the same time, even though
he may have a greater measure of freedom than he does while
working a normal shift, he is never truly free from work. The em-
ployer may interrupt the employee's personal activities without
warning, and the threat of interruption may prevent him from en-
gaging in certain activities altogether, either because he would not
be able to return to work quickly enough, or because some activi-
ties - such as attending movies or sporting events - require a
solid block of time and thus would be impractical. Moreover, non-
payment for on-call time can be inequitable: employers obtain
value from the on-call services, enabling them to reduce staff or
1. See Clare Ansberry, Workers Are Forced to Take More Jobs with Few Benefits: Firms
Use Contract Labor and Temps to Cut Costs and Increase Flexibility, WALL ST. J., Mar. 11,
1993, at Al; Sue Shellenbarger, Firms Make the Most of Flexible Scheduling, WALL ST. J.,
Apr. 12, 1993, at B1.
2. On-call service may require an employee to return to his employer's premises, see, e.g.,
Bright v. Houston Northwest Med. Ctr. Survivor, Inc., 934 F.2d 671 (5th Cir. 1991) (en banc),
or simply respond by telephone, see, eg., Berry v. County of Sonoma, 30 F.3d 1174 (9th Cir.


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