I switched jobs within my company about a year and a half ago. With my last job I was considered exempt and was expected to be on call 7 days a week. The company furnished me with a cell phone to use for business purposes. When I switched jobs I was also switched to nonexempt and I was no longer required to be “on call”. My phone was taken away from me because I would no longer need it anymore according to my boss.

I got a phone of my own and my boss told me he needed to have that phone number in case anyone needed to get a hold of me. Occasionally I would get late night phone calls from people that work asking me questions that I thought could have waited until the next day. Not only that but most of the time I would be sleeping and didn’t even hear my phone. I changed my phone number because of other circumstances and did not give them my new number. I was told that they needed to have the new number. I refused. I told them I did not want the silly late night phone calls and I since they did not pay for my phone I shouldn’t have to give it to them. My boss though he was not happy let it go. The subject has come up again and my question is, can my employer make me give them my cell phone number? I was on call for this company for 4 straight years and I just really do not want to be bothered anymore. I work Mon-Fri form 8-5 and when I go home I don’t want to think about that place. I think if they want me to be on call they can pay for my cell phone and put me back on exempt status, but I know this will not happen.

Thank you,


Dear Sleeping,

Any co-worker that calls you while you are asleep for anything short of a life-threatening emergency should be forced to watch 24 consecutive hours of Barney–and poked with a stick every time they start to nod off. That should cure ’em!

You’re currently non-exempt. This means you are paid by the amount of time you work, and not by the job you do. This also means that they have to pay you if they call you. They don’t, however, have to pay you for being available. The Department of Labor gives this information about being on call, as a non-exempt employee:

On-Call Time: An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises is working while “on call.” An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee’s freedom could require this time to be compensated.

So, yes, they can require you to be on call, but they do have to pay you if they call you. (Of course, if it’s a 30 second question, how are you going to charge that?)

Should they? No. Generally, employers pay people a premium for being on call, although according to the DOL they do not have to.

I understand not wanting to be available, but if it’s part of the job, it’s part of the job. I do think, however, the next time your boss asks you state, “You know I’m a non-exempt employee and legally you have to pay me every time you call me. I’ll put down 15 minutes for each phone call.”

I bet that will either solve the problem or he’ll agree–but at least you’ll be paid for being annoyed.


Evil HR Lady

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One thought on “On Call

  1. There’s a question that didn’t get answered. Does the company have a legal right to require her to give them the number of a cell phone that they don’t pay for?

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