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The Question

I work for an IT company, and we are on call a lot. Myself and a co-worker have a feeling we are getting bullied by our boss, and we are really not happy with it. He is a tech and is on call every other week. I am a liaison between departments, client side versus company side. I am on call 24/7. When I am engaged and brought into work, can that be flagged as part of my salary?

Is it fair and legal to assume that my life is stuck on hold while I am getting teams in place to do work, and not be compensated in any way? “It’s part of the job; it’s in your salary,” they say. My boss has flip-flopped. “Time in lieu” is allowed, then not allowed. So I’m looking for laws that will help me to either a) know where I stand, or b) force the hand to say: You’re breaking the law and I’m not okay with that.

If I have to dump the weekend with my kids every once in a while because of work? Okay, it happens. But give me some time off to get that time back with my kids. Am I out of line?

The First Answer

Heather Faire

Canadian human resources executive, Atlanta

It is not unusual for some IT client service professionals to be on call or work overtime.

Is your boss breaking the law? Google it! Check out the overtime pay provision in your provincial employment standards act. Most provincial standards provide for overtime pay or time in lieu for hours worked over a set number per week. For example, in Ontario, the standard is based on 44 hours per week. However, there are several exemptions in provincial overtime pay rules, including for management, specific professions and government workers. Your job could fall under an exemption.

Is your boss a bully? Think back. If your on-call and overtime requirements were implemented without notice or discussion, perhaps you have a bully on your hands. If the requirements were disclosed and agreed to when you took the job and your boss is generally reasonable on other matters, then perhaps you don’t.

Is it something else? Reflect and take stock. No matter one’s profession, personal lives grow and evolve. The ongoing quest to maintain a healthy and productive work-life balance can be tricky, and sometimes that means making professional adjustments or changes.

After reviewing the employment standards, if you believe laws are being broken, inform your manager and human resources, then request remediation. If no laws were broken, talk to your manager and see if you can work out a plan to anticipate or preschedule overtime. If that’s not possible, consider a move to another department or to another company for a job that better fits your personal needs.

The Second Answer

Shane King

Partner, McLeod Law LLP, Calgary

Each province has a different determination as to how employees who are on call are treated. In Alberta, for example, if an employee is not required to perform work at home, no payment is required and being on call or on standby is not considered working. If the employee is required to leave home and report to work, generally, the minimum pay required is equal to three hours’ pay.

There are exemptions to these minimum standards for hours of work and rest, which include information systems professionals, as well as managers and supervisors and many others (including lawyers!). As you are in IT, without knowing your specific duties, it sounds like you would be exempted from overtime and anything you wanted to seek in regard to time off would be negotiated between you and your employer.