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  • Compensation for "On-Call" time?

    I'm posting this here on account of my belief that our time is the most precious and valuable asset we have. We are mortal. Our time we have on Earth cannot be bank rolled, it can't be borrowed, added to the end, or taken in advance. Once it's gone, you never get it back. To me at least, that makes my time the most valuable thing on the planet. What I need is objective opinions and insights about the following situation. I've been in law enforcement for over 14 years, with military before that so I don't need all the good ole "you know what you were getting into" BS cop-out comments. I know that already. Regardless, the perspective herein may be useful to someone just coming into the profession. Somethings have to have a limit. Here we go...

    Here’s the situation: My three co-workers and I are a part of the administrative/executive office. Our duties range from grant writing to policy administration, budget review and analysis, special projects/events, media/PIO, Compstat and statistical analysis, and legislative research. Two of us have BAs in business (finance and economics), and one has a MA. We are affectionately called the "nerd herd" by our Chief. On account of our media/PIO duties, we have a rotating on-call duty period that lasts 7 days. Someone is “primary” that week, someone else is “secondary”, and someone else is “alternative” in case one of the first two are unavailable. (By policy if we have a call-out, at least two have to respond, typically the primary and secondary person) Whoever is “primary” for the week is subject to round the clock social media and email monitoring, call-outs, after-hour press releases, etc. This is where it gets interesting. Whoever is primary and secondary (AND more often than not the alt), cannot go anywhere during our "off" time. We are geographically restricted. We can’t go out of town, or engage in any activity (i.e enjoying a beer or two at home) where we aren’t’ responsive to our work phone, and able to immediately deploy if needed. HOWEVER, we are not compensated for any of our on-call time unless we are called out. So that basically means that for three weeks out of the month we are restricted 24/7 by our employer during our "off the clock" time without any form of compensation. To put things in perspective, we are ONLY paid beyond 40 if we have an after hours call out even though we'll typically work in excess of 60 hours per week fulfilling the responsibilities of our duties. I've tried to very, very cautiously address this, but was told something along the lines of "I can't tell you you have to do this, but it'd be in your best interest to not let your teammates down." Basically using implied peer-pressure to get us to work for free...

    I loved working over when I was still on patrol, BUT I GOT PAID FOR IT. Now I'm still hourly, working more hours than I did on patrol, but not getting paid for it. This has began to put a ridiculous amount of stress on our families. We can't go to the family Thanksgiving/Xmas/wedding/beach day-trip that's an hour away ON OUR TIME OFF on account of having to sit our asses at the house next to our work phones...while not getting paid. I suppose what I'm asking is does anyone have experience or knowledge specifically with the legalities of compensation for "expected on-call" time or "Stand-by" time. The laws about this are very clear, but in law enforcement this seems to be a very muddy area. Go figure.

  • #2
    I essentially asked those type of questions when I was "on-call" for investigations years ago. What I found, then, was that there weren't any real clear cut answers.

    I would suggest that you continue to do some additional research. The consensus that I came up with is essentially it is viewed, like other things in life, in something of a "Totality Of Circumstances", So, for example, if you are "on-call", but the past history is you rarely, or never get called out it is looked at very differently from someone in a situation where when they are "on call" they can pretty much plan on getting called out.

    That having been said, the very factor(s) you mention above seem to be real common in a lot of places. Be a "team player". Don't let others down.

    I had a similar, related, situation recently. I am in the running for a slot , at another agency, just into another state. The announcement doesn't mention anything about residency or being on call. However, in the second round interview, the discussion came up. Questions like,a re you planning on moving here? How long does it take for you to drive here? My wife, sons and I currently live on a 5 acre hobby farm with two horses. I certainly couldn't buy 5 acres with that Area Of Responsibility, but nearby might be a possibility.

    Then, there is the whole issue of my wife's job. Do I ask her to quit or add a lot of time for her commute for me to satisfy my potential new employer?

    Lots of questions, but few solid answers.

    All I can say is good luck and tread carefully. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Life Has Choices And Choices Have Consequences. Choose wisely.

    Comment


    • #3
      If you are Management, you may be exempt, so no OT.
      Now go home and get your shine box!

      Comment


      • #4
        My experience dates from the days of "overtime, we don't do that", through the days of "overtime as required, but we will be the judge about what is required", into the days of "you are in a supervisory/professional position so no overtime rules apply".

        Lots of employers demand loyalty and commitment. Relatively few employers respond with loyalty or commitment. The budget is the budget, and thou shalt always revere and respect the budget in everything you do and say. You don't like working 9-5 Monday-Friday in an administrative position, so perhaps you will like working permanent night shifts with no weekends off.

        I spent several years in an investigator position with a major state agency, during which I regularly worked 60-plus hours per week and was on-call constantly (once went over 6 months without a single day off). No overtime because the position was supervisory/management level, but compensatory time was allowed for over 48 hours per week. When I left I had over 3000 hours of comp time accrued. The bosses pitched a fit, but I took it to the state appeals process, and I remained on the payroll for over 1-1/2 years (long enough to earn several additional weeks of vacation time), and they were not able to hire a replacement because technically the position remained filled.

        I was single at the time, had a couple of years income banked, and I was debt-free. I was able to make it stick, right where it needed to stick to make my point. Are you ready to take the gamble? Civil service proceedings, just like civil court proceeding, are always a gamble.

        After the dust settled I took a position as a small town chief.. I always made sure my people got their time off, vacations, etc, usually by filling the shifts myself. If you don't have that level of support from upper management you are probably putting a red circle around your name on the department roster by complaining too much.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm on call all the time too but I don't have any restrictions on where I can go. I don't drink alcoholic beverages so that's not an issue for me.

          When I see something that's broke or needs changing etc I find a solution for it and then present it to the chief. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don't. Sometimes something else has to happen before they like my ideas.

          So if it was me I would talk it over with your coworkers and see how they feel about the current setup. Work out an alternative to the current setup, that's budget friendly and still meets your department's standards. Then present it to the chief or through your chain of command.

          ​​​​​​I've discovered that sometimes you have to sit and wait for that perfect timing and or place to get what you want implemented.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by westside popo View Post
            ...​​​​​​I've discovered that sometimes you have to sit and wait for that perfect timing and or place to get what you want implemented.
            Very well said. Timing is everything.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by CCCSD View Post
              If you are Management, you may be exempt, so no OT.
              Yeah this is the big question. For us, once you’re a Lieutenant you’re basically always on call, always attached to your phone and there is no overtime.

              For us minions, I have my assigned on call days and weekends. I’m not paid for being on call, which came up in our last contract but I don’t think was addressed. We only get paid when we roll out, which sucks because there are times they call you at 3 AM and then you’re not authorized to go in.

              The reality for investigators here though is that even when you’re not “on call” you’re still expected to be available and answer the phone.
              I make my living on Irish welfare.

              Comment


              • #8
                I knew one guy who was in your boat at a department I used to work at. He finally got the state wage and hour people involved when he didn't get any traction going through regular channels. Not wanting to bankrupt the village, I believe he took some paid vacation at their expense (rather than getting a check for what the state said he was owed), and the practice was stopped. You are getting screwed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by reils49 View Post

                  Yeah this is the big question. For us, once you’re a Lieutenant you’re basically always on call, always attached to your phone and there is no overtime.

                  For us minions, I have my assigned on call days and weekends. I’m not paid for being on call, which came up in our last contract but I don’t think was addressed. We only get paid when we roll out, which sucks because there are times they call you at 3 AM and then you’re not authorized to go in.

                  The reality for investigators here though is that even when you’re not “on call” you’re still expected to be available and answer the phone.
                  We have what I call the pillow rule. If my head has hit the pillow and they call a detective even if we don’t respond there is a minimum OT charge.
                  Where'd you learn that, Cheech? Drug school?

                  Comment


                  • reils49
                    reils49 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    That’s how it should be.

                • #10
                  Originally posted by just joe View Post
                  I knew one guy who was in your boat at a department I used to work at. He finally got the state wage and hour people involved when he didn't get any traction going through regular channels. Not wanting to bankrupt the village, I believe he took some paid vacation at their expense (rather than getting a check for what the state said he was owed), and the practice was stopped. You are getting screwed.
                  Read this 10 times


                  But be advised there WILL be fallout

                  Don't ask how I know
                  Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

                  My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    which sucks because there are times they call you at 3 AM and then you’re not authorized to go in.
                    If I get called, I go in... and I'm on call from 0500-0700, when I go on shift. No pay for on call, but I get time and a half if they do call.
                    "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

                    "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Like others above, my experience began when overtime was a non-issue (straight salary, court time and call-outs were just part of your job); you basically had one decision to make and that was whether or not you wanted to keep the job or leave for something else.

                      By the mid-1970's overtime payment became the norm in most departments. Oversight was strict and very little allowance was made for discretion. Better get your supervisor's approval before working the hours, or else.

                      Moved into detective and investigator positions, which were then considered as "professional or managerial" level, thus excluded from overtime rules. Eventually we were able to negotiate compensatory time, generally any time in excess of 48 hours per week compensated at a rate of one hour off for each additional hour accumulated. I was usually able to carry my comp time forward and tie it into a vacation period and that worked pretty well for all concerned.

                      Made a change to a state agency as a criminal investigator. Worked over 6 months without a day off, then another few years of 55-90 hours per week. Seldom received a vacation break. On-call 24/7. Basically rode hard and put away wet every day, every week, every month with no compensation or consideration. Put in my resignation along with documentation of over 3000 hours accumulated compensatory time plus two years vacations and holidays. Bosses fought me all the way through the state personnel board, and I won. Stayed on the payroll for over a year and a half while they were unable to hire a replacement because the position was still technically filled by a salaried employee. While on "terminal leave" status I earned another 3 weeks vacation and 8 or 9 holidays that had to be compensated. The bozos in charge actually had the gall to call me multiple times to ask for my help with various cases pending prosecution, so I offered them an hourly rate as a consultant (which they accepted).

                      Took a couple of months off to get caught up on family stuff, then accepted another job. Used the extra paychecks to pay off the mortgage early.

                      Meanwhile, I was appointed as Chief of Police in a small department.. Then I learned what "always on call" really means! 6-1/2 years without a break of any kind. Usually when my guys took vacation time it was me pulling their assigned shifts; Took early retirement at 24 years, vested my retirement funds and started a business, worked another 20 years before finally retiring for good (with about 1.5 million socked away and debt-free)..Sold the business for enough to buy our retirement home. Now I meet with my financial advisers a couple of times per year to decide how much I want to take from the investment earnings.

                      Ideal career path? No way at all! I don't recommend it. But we must always stay focused on the end goal, and that worked for me.

                      Your methods may vary.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        What does your collective bargaining agreement say? Contact your union rep and get them involved - that’s what your dues pay for.
                        Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

                        I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq

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