Asked to start his shift early: Is he entitled to call-in pay?

The terms of the labor agreement specified that employees entitled to call-in time would be paid for a minimum of 4 hr at time-and-a-half.
By Raymond Dreyfack November 1, 1999

The terms of the labor agreement specified that employees entitled to call-in time would be paid for a minimum of 4 hr at time-and-a-half.

When the second shift maintenance supervisor saw that they were running behind on a lab rewiring project, he called Maintenance Manager Jack Bailey, who then called Grade I Electrician Mark Costanza at home.

“Mark, they’ve run into a snag on that lab job. Would you mind coming in a couple of hours early to make sure it gets out on time?”

“No problem,” Costanza replied.

He came in 2-hr early, and the work was completed by 9:00 a.m. Bailey thanked the electrician for his cooperation, but Costanza wanted more than thanks — a fact he made known when pay checks were handed out.

“All I got was 2-hr overtime pay on that lab rewiring job,” he complained. “Call-in pay is supposed to be a minimum of 4-hr according to the contract.”

“That provision doesn’t apply in this case,” Bailey replied.

“I don’t see why not. A call-in is a call-in. I was called in, wasn’t I?”

“Sure, but you weren’t inconvenienced within the context of the 4-hr provision.”

Costanza disagreed and threatened to file a grievance.

“File away,” Bailey replied. But he decided to check it out with his boss just to make sure.

Question: Is the electrician entitled to the extra pay?

Benson’s verdict: No extra pay for Costanza, Plant Engineer Jay Benson ruled. “Contractual clauses must be assessed in light of the reason for which they were written. The purpose of the 4-hr minimum call-in provision was to compensate employees inconvenienced by having been called in. If Costanza would have been called in for less than 4-hr after having gone home from his regular shift, or called in for only 2-hr work on a Saturday, the provision would have applied. Having been called in for 2-hr before his regular shift only entitles him to overtime pay.”