The line between when employees are on or off the clock have become more and more grey with the advent of Blackberries, iPhones, and providing employees with remote login access from their homes. On-call time is considered compensable work time if it is spent primarily for the benefit of the employer and its business. In making this determination, the on call waiting time is spent predominantly for the employer’s benefit depends on two considerations: (1) the parties’ agreement, and (2) the degree to which the employee is free to engage in personal activities.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Owens v. Local No. 169, Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (9th Cir. 1992) 971 F.2d 347, 350-355, provided a nonexclusive list of factors courts would examining in determining whether the employee was free to engage in personal activities (note that none of the factors is determinative by itself):

  1. whether there was an on premises living requirement;
  2. whether there were excessive geographical restrictions on employee’s movements;
  3. whether the frequency of calls was unduly restrictive;
  4. whether a fixed time limit for response was unduly restrictive;
  5. whether the on-call employee could easily trade on-call responsibilities;
  6. whether use of a pager could ease restrictions; and
  7. whether the employee had actually engaged in personal activities during call-in time.

In addition, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement published this guideline on call back time and stand by time. Employers need to conduct a review of each case when on-call time may be an issue in order to determine whether pay is owed.