Law School Case Brief
Bright v. Hous. Nw. Med. Ctr. Survivor, Inc. - 934 F.2d 671 (5th Cir. 1991)
The critical issue in cases involving the question of whether on-call time is compensable is whether the employee can use the on-call time effectively for his or her own purposes. This does not imply that the employee must have substantially the same flexibility or freedom as he would if not on call. Only in the very rarest of situations, if ever, would there be any point in an employee being on call if he could not be reached by his employer so as to shortly thereafter be able to perform a needed service, usually at some particular location.
Bright, a repair technician of hospital equipment, worked a regular work-week, and was required by Houston Northwest Medical Center Survivor, Inc. (“Northwest”) to wear an electronic paging device while off-duty and while at home or wherever he chose; he was required to be prepared to be at the hospital within 20 minutes for emergency repairs as needed. Bright was paid for his time only when he was called into work, but was not paid for the "on-call" time. Bright filed an action for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (act), 29 U.S.C.S. § 207(a)(1); the trial court granted summary judgment for Northwest.
Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favor of Northwest?
The Court held that an employee who was required to remain on call on the employer's premises or so close to it that he was unable to use the time for his own purposes was working while "on call," but an employee who was not required to remain on the employer's premises, but was merely required to wear a pager and appear when needed, was not working while "on call" under the act. 29 CFR § 785.17.
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