The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the basis for most labor laws, such as regulations governing minimum wage, child labor and overtime pay. States often have additional labor laws or set different standards within areas governed by the FLSA. New York laws do not expressly define, allow for, prohibit or establish pay procedures for time that employees spend on-call, except for nurses. State labor laws limit the number of hours nurses can be required to work and provide for proper compensation.


Federal law defines on-call time as periods during which hourly employees who are not actively working are limited in how they may spend personal time. On-call employees are required to remain on site or within a five-minute drive of the workplace. For rural workplaces, the radius is 10 miles. On-call workers are restricted in how they may spend the time. Employees on call must be compensated, under federal law. An employee is not on call if he can leave a telephone number or other means of being contacted, or can arrange for someone else to perform any work that arises during the applicable period.


New York labor laws limit the number of hours registered professional nurses and licensed practical nurses may be required to work so that employers do not jeopardize patient care. Pre-scheduled on-call time, time spent communicating shift reports about the health of patients and other work-related activities are generally considered regularly scheduled working hours. Employers may not use on-call time as a substitute for mandatory overtime. Nurses may voluntarily work overtime.


An employee may report an alleged violation of on-call labor laws to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division or to the New York State Department of Labor’s Division of Labor Standards. Nurses also may file a Mandatory Overtime for Nurses Complaint Form with the Division of Labor Standards.