Asked in Employment Law for California

Q: I'm a Residential Assistant at a college. Can my supervisor require me to submit a request any time I leave overnight?

Hi, I am an Residential Assistant (RA) in apartment-style graduate student housing on a university campus. RA's are supposed to work roughly ten hours per week (as outlined in our contract). We also work an on-call shift were are "on-call" 24/7 on average once a week for the semester. Sometimes we will have these on-call days one after another. Now for the main issue, my supervisor is requiring we make a formal request and receive approval from him any time we leave campus overnight. He says we want to make sure there are enough staff around in case something happens. Of course, we can't leave when we are on-call, but is it legal for them to restrict our movements when we are not working? Again, we are only supposed to work 10 hours / week.


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2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: As a Residential Assistant, your contractual obligations and the requirements set by your supervisor are key factors in determining what is permissible. If your contract specifies working hours and on-call duties but does not mention restrictions on your movement outside of these hours, your supervisor's requirement might be overreaching.

However, considering the nature of the RA position, which often includes responsibilities for student safety and wellbeing, it's not unusual for universities to have policies to ensure adequate staffing. This could include requiring notice when RAs plan to be away overnight, even when not on-call, to manage staffing levels effectively.

It's advisable to review your contract and any relevant employment policies provided by the university. If this requirement isn't explicitly covered in your contract or university policies, you may have grounds to discuss its reasonableness with your supervisor or human resources department.

Remember, open and clear communication with your supervisor about your concerns is often the first and most effective step. If the issue remains unresolved, or if the requirement seems excessively restrictive, seeking advice from a legal professional knowledgeable in employment law may be beneficial. They can provide specific guidance based on the details of your contract and employment situation.

Brad S Kane
Brad S Kane
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Yes. Your employer can require you to get permission to leave campus. The real question is the employer must provide compensation due to the restrictions on your movements.

Whether on-call or standby time off the work site is considered compensable must be determined by looking at the restrictions placed on the employee. A variety of factors are considered in determining whether the employer-imposed restrictions turn the on-call time into compensable “hours worked.” These factors, set out in a federal case, Berry v. County of Sonoma (1994) 30 F.3d 1174, include whether there are excessive geographic restrictions on the employee’s movements; whether the frequency of calls is unduly restrictive; whether a fixed time limit for response is unduly restrictive; whether the on-call employee can easily trade his or her on-call responsibilities with another employee; and whether and to what extent the employee engages in personal activities during on-call periods.

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