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Can My Employer Keep Me On-Call Without Paying Me in Michigan?

Taking breaks during a long workday is important for employees to connect, rest, refuel, and be productive. However, if you are given a break but then asked to work through it, it probably doesn’t feel very relaxing or rejuvenating. If your employer is keeping you on-call during breaks but is not paying you, you may be entitled to compensation. Speak with a skilled Marquette wage and hour lawyer to discuss your situation and acquire experienced legal counsel.

What is On-Call Work?

Various industries require that their employees be on-call on occasion. When you are on-call you are not technically working. However, you must be available to work in case of an emergency or if your employer needs you. Sometimes employers who are on-call are required to remain on company property or at their station. Other times people can be at home or going about their daily lives but must be ready to get to work or help out in a certain amount of time. Doctors, nurses, or EMTs might be on-call. They could be allowed to be home or hanging out with friends but if there is an emergency at work they can be called in at any time. Other professions may have on-call work as well including technicians, IT, and trade industries.

Are Breaks Protected Employee Rights in Michigan?

The state of Michigan abides by federally mandated labor laws. According to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), rest breaks and meal breaks are not a protected right of employees. In Michigan, an employer does not have to offer an employee a break. With that being said, employees under the age of 18 are permitted to take a 30-minute break if they are working for 5 or more hours.

Federal law does state that breaks lasting up to 20 minutes must be paid as they are short enough to count as part of the workday. Any meal break that lasts more than 30 minutes can be unpaid, given that the employee is not asked to perform any work tasks during that time.

Can An Employer Keep Me On-Call During a Lunch Break Without Paying Me?

In short, no, an employer cannot keep you on-call during a lunch break without paying you. On-call work is generally considered working hours depending on the specifics. For example, an employee who is allowed to take a lunch break but must remain at their desk to answer the phone is on-call and is legally entitled to payment for that time. However, an EMT who is on-call but gets to be at home and use their free time as they please is likely not going to be compensated unless they are called into work.

There are many types of breaks an employer might offer, if any. They can include working lunches, 30-minute breaks, hour-long off-premises lunches, etc. Again it is important to keep in mind that under federal law, Michigan employers are not required to offer paid or unpaid breaks to their employees, outside of minor labor laws or union laws. However, if they do offer a break but require their employees to do any form of labor during that time, it is considered compensable.

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