SW Legal studies in Business

Employees Who Are On-Call, But Not Working, Can Be Paid Less Than Minimum Wage
Description Appeals court affirmed that nurses, who were paid below minimum wage for the time they were on-call, did not have a suit for violation of the minimum wage law. Since their time was mostly their own, not their employer's, the law did not apply.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Fair Labor Standards Act; Minimum Wage; Work
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A group of nurses who worked for a hospital in Fargo, North Dakota, sued the hospital for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay them the minimum wage set by Congress under the FLSA when they were on-call. When nurses were on-call the requirement was that they be able to report to the hospital within 20 minutes of a call, that they let the hospital know a phone number to contact them, and that they not consume alcohol or use mind-altering drugs. Once called, a nurse returned to regular pay, not sub-minimum wage pay for being on call. Of the 135 nurses who sued, only 36 had been called in more than once in more than three years. The trial court dismissed the suit; the nurses appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. An employee's time is "work" subject to the FSLA if it is spent predominantly for the benefit of the employer; an employee may be waiting to be called and therefore not be working. Since the nurses could do what they wanted to do, except be more than 20 minutes from the hospital and not consume alcohol or drugs, their time was predominantly theirs while on call, so payment below minimum wage was not in violation of the FSLA.

Citation Reimer v. Champion Healthcare Corp., 2001 WL 793247 (8th Cir., 2001)

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