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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Power outage no reason for company to shortchange worker

Employees who show up for work and are

Employees who show up for work and are sent home due to lack of work are entitled to call-in pay, according to state labor laws. Photo Credit: Getty Images iStockphoto / Kirill_Liv

DEAR CARRIE: My 17-year-old son works at a local commercial-credit business. He was recently scheduled to work from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. When he reported to the office, he was told he couldn’t work because the building had no power. He was told to return at 7 p.m. When he went back, the office still had no power, and a supervisor told him to go home. He was also told that he would not be paid for his shift. When he got home, I showed him your article on minimum show-up pay. He took it to work and showed it to a manager, who said he would look into it. Another manager later showed my son something, supposedly from labor law, that allows the company in the event of a power outage to pay him for just two hours. I am hoping you can shed some light on this mysterious law. My son earns just $10.25 per hour; so any loss of pay is significant. — Empowering My Son

DEAR EMPOWERING: You are right to be skeptical of the supervisor’s explanation. Either he or she misinterpreted labor law or just concocted something to convince your son that he could be underpaid.

State labor law is clear on the subject of what is known as call-in pay: When employees show up for work at their regularly scheduled time and are told to go home because of a lack of work, they must be paid for a least four hours, or fewer if their shift was shorter, said employment lawyer Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.

“There is no exception for lost power or other emergencies,” Kass said. “I have no idea what paper the manager may have shown to the reader’s son, but it wasn’t the New York Department of Labor wage and hour order.”

So this is another column your son can show his managers. He would be helping them to gain an education in labor laws that could save their employer from Labor Department fines someday.

DEAR CARRIE: I am an hourly employee at a major company in New York. I and my fellow workers are on-call two to three hours before our shift officially starts to take phone calls from customers Monday through Friday. We take calls but aren’t considered to be working until we arrive at a customer’s place of business. Is this a correct application of being on-call? Normally on the weekend when we are on-call, we get paid overtime door to door. — On the Clock?

DEAR ON THE CLOCK: Normally hourly workers have to be paid for all the hours they work. If you perform work while on call, like answering calls from customers, you have to be paid for that work. By not paying you for the extra time, your employer may be cheating you out of 10 to 15 hours of extra work a week, and out of overtime if those extra hours put you over the 40-hour mark for the week.

You mentioned that you aren’t on the clock until you arrive at a customer’s business. Could it be that you are considered an outside salesperson? If that is the case, then the company wouldn’t have to pay you for any extra time.

For more information call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890.


Go to for more on the state law regarding call-in pay.

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