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Should employees be paid for responding to after-hour calls, emails?

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Should people be paid for responding to work emails and phone calls when they're off the clock? A police officer in Chicago says yes. And he's suing the city for back pay.

At Screamer Co. marketing agency in South Austin, employees must be available to clients around the clock.

"Everything we do is driven by deadlines," Owner Scott Creamer said. "We're always on the go. We're available to them whenever, it doesn't matter if it's 9 o'clock at night or it's a weekend call."

Scott Creamer tries to keep a balance between work and home.

"People can come in whenever they need to get the job done. So that means they can leave a little early, they can stay late, but that also means they might get a call on Saturday," he said.

The lifestyle isn't for everyone.

"Some people stress themselves out too much working all the time," said Michael Gordon.

A Chicago police officer said enough. Sgt. Jeffery Allen sued the city for overtime pay for frequently answering his "required to use" department blackberry off-duty.

"If they have a half-hour phone call outside of work hours to a superior about a search warrant they're gonna work on the next day, that is something that needs to be paid for," said Sgt. Allen's attorney Paul Geiger.

Chicago city officials say there are work policies and procedures that allow officers to request overtime.

Former U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton doesn't feel the officer has a case.

"The problem is in the law enforcement world you've got to answer calls for emergencies or questions even when you're off and that's just part of the deal," said Sutton. "The flipside is you've got to be reasonable in what you ask your employees to do. If you ask them to gallop constantly you can only gallop for so long before you keel over dead, so I think it's a balance and hopefully that balance will be struck. Hopefully bad facts won't make bad law in this case."

Sutton says the case could have a nationwide impact.

"You're taken for granted and I think it should at some point be acknowledged," said Dale MacKenzie.

"You know, you have to be available, especially when you're a professional," Chris Colley said.

As far as Austin police are concerned, supervising officers and detectives aren't provided with city-owned phones, but do get a stipend for their personal phone bills.

According to the Austin Police Association the issue of calls and emails and overtime pay is an ongoing struggle. They will be watching the Chicago case.

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