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Your "on-call" shift may entitle you to wages in California

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Imagine your boss assigned you an on-call shift tomorrow for your position at a retail store. You can't schedule social activities or work at another job because they might need you. Two hours before your shift, you call in, but they cancel your shift and refuse to compensate you.

Employees at Tilly's experienced this exact situation. Their employer failed to report their on-call hours as paid time, which is a violation of California's Wage Order 7. Tilly's argued that "calling in" was not reporting for work. Courts disagreed.

How did Tilly's violate Wage Order 7?

California's employment laws are broader than federal employment laws. Under federal laws, "on-call" employees must stay on their employers' premises. California's Wage Order 7 states that on-call employees can wait at home.

Wage Order 7 aims to protect the wage rights of those in the mercantile industry and, the court determined, Tilly's on-call employees. Tilly's violated wage laws by doing the following:

  • If an employee called in for their on-call shift but were not needed, Tilly's did not record them as having reported in for work and so did not pay them.
  • If Tilly's employees refused to work their on-call shift or failed to call in two hours before their on-call shift, they received disciplinary action.
  • Tilly's did not treat on-call shifts equally to regular shifts. On-call shifts started earlier and were on different days of the week.

The court stated that on-call shifts "burden employees" and rob them of job security they could experience with other employers. Failing to pay them is a violation of their rights.

However, the outcome of this case does not necessarily apply to all on-call employees, such as those in the medical field. If you are an on-call employee on occasion, find out if your employer is violating your rights under state or federal law.

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