Maryland Judge Rules On-Call Time Non-Compensable Due To Freedom for Personal Activities
The issue of whether time spent “on-call” is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act is a factual analysis, and thus the source of FLSA litigation. A recent decision finding such time to be non-compensable highlights a preeminent principle in the analysis – in order for on-call time to be non-compensable, an employee must be free to engage in at least a reasonable range of personal pursuits. Skrzecz v. Gibson Island Corp., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95047 (D. Md. 2014).
In Skrzecz, plaintiff was employed on Gibson Island in Maryland as a police officer and EMT. Her job required her to be on-call during certain hours in addition to her scheduled shift, time for which she alleged she was owed additional compensation. The case record established that during the on-call time plaintiff could “stay in her home or [was] free to travel on the Island… [and] also that she could eat, sleep, watch television and spend time with her son.” Judge Richard D. Bennett, drawing on the Fourth Circuit’s prior opinion addressing on call issues in Kelly v. Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, Inc., 847 F.2d 147 (4th Cir. 1988), a case concerning a live-in funeral parlor employee, determined that plaintiff “was not so restricted that she [could not] use her on-call time for personal activities.” Thus, the time was not compensable.
Plaintiff Skrzecz’s specific freedoms highlight key aspects of any analysis of on-call time. In the instant case, these FLSA principles were also deemed applicable to the determination of whether such time was compensable under Maryland state wage law. Of course, state law must always be analyzed separately. Further, any time spent working after being called to active duty while “on-call” is of course compensable.