The Supreme Court has held that time spent waiting for work is compensable if the waiting time is spent “primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business.” Armour & Co. v. Wantock (1944). Whether the time spent predominantly for the employer’s benefit depends on the specific circumstances of each situation. Although there is no hard and fast rule, the cases dealing with the question of compensation and overtime for on-call duty consider two major factors: (1) the degree to which the employee is free to engage in personal activities; and (2) the agreement between the parties.
While the second factor – the existence or non existence of the agreement to waive on-call duty compensation – is usually easy to determine, the first factor includes sub-elements that determine whether the employee is free to engage in personal activities while on call: (a)whether there was an on-premises living requirement; (b) whether there were restrictions on employee’s travel during on-call duty; (c) whether the frequency of calls was so high that it prevented employee from engaging in typical off-duty activities of a person; (d) whether a fixed time limit for response was unduly restrictive; (e) whether the employee could easily trade on-call responsibilities; (f) whether employee actually engaged in personal activities during call-in time.
The above list is not exhaustive but merely illustrative.
Thus, the underlying principle of determining whether compensation for on-call duty is due is looking into the specific details and the frequency of the duties of the on-call employee and how much their restrict his ability to enjoy his hours off work.