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Being On-Call

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Photo by Lanier67

At the WSCADV Annual Conference last month, a bunch of forward thinking directors, managers and advocates came together for a Good Jobs Forum. There was a lot of great discussion, but one topic in particular came up and we didn’t have time to fully explore it—On-call staff!

Structuring and managing on-call work is a big challenge.  Our discussion brought up a lot of different (and not always harmonious) things to consider. What’s best for your particular community? What fits into the structure of your agency? What do your funders require? What does the law have to say? What’s the ideal- what fits best with our social and economic justice principles?

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Just writing that made my head hurt.

I’m sure there are a lot of you out there with some really great ideas about this, so let us know what is working for your staff, agency and community.

Also, here’s a little PSA (public service announcement) about what the law says and why this is such a murky topic. This is a very short article about what happened when an agency unknowingly improperly compensated their on-call workers.  Here’s the crux of the issue: “…on-call time becomes compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ‘when the on-call conditions are so restrictive or the calls to duty so frequent that the employee cannot effectively use on-call time for personal purposes.’”  For example, Anna Advocate is on-call twice a month with the crisis line cell phone. She is free to be wherever she wishes as long as she is able to answer the cell phone if it rings and take the crisis call. She’s paid for the time spent on any actual calls, but not for the time she has the cell phone and is on-call. Seems pretty clear.

But, Anna also must be available go to the shelter to welcome any survivors who call needing shelter. There are rules about being on-call at Anna’s agency that say she must be able to respond to the shelter within 30 minutes of a call, and the number of calls for shelter during a weekend of being on-call can vary.  Does this mean that Anna Advocate is so restricted that she cannot use on-call time for personal purposes? See what I mean by murky? This is tricky, but good to be aware of.

What do you have to say about this? What else is challenging about on-call work? Let us know!