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Paying Employees for Answering Messages After Hours

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Employee in grey sweater using cell phone

Question:If an employee, particularly an hourly paid employee, receives and responds to e-mails and/or texts on his/her time after hours, is he/she required to be paid by his/her employer? Does it matter whether it is on a company-paid cell phone or his her/her own phone? 

Answer: The simple answers are yes and no. Yes, hourly workers should be paid when they answer emails, phone calls, texts, carrier pigeon messages, etc. on their off time. No, it makes no difference whether the instrument is theirs or their employer’s. Now, having said this, the U.S. Department of Labor applies what’s known as a “de minimis” rule, meaning that if the amount of time is small–20 minutes is often referred to as the limit–then it won’t likely take enforcement action. But the law is clear that the time is compensable. 

If an employee is correctly deemed as salaried exempt (always a big question), then he or she does not have to be paid for such after-hours work. 

This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with legal needs, members are invited to consult with ACCA’s LegalTools Counsel, Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at 

Brooke Duncan

Posted In: ACCA Now, Legal

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