Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When Your Employer Must Pay for Your Travel Time

In general, an employer does not need to compensate you for time spent traveling that is a normal commute from home to work and back. However, there are a couple of key exceptions. Under California law, one exception is when an employer requires you to take company-provided transportation and you are subject to the control of the employer. See Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575, 578 (2000).

In the Morillion case, the employer, Royal Packing Co., required its employee farm workers to meet for work each day at parking lots or assembly areas. Id. at 579. From these departure points, Royal transported employees to their job sites in busses which Royal provided and for which Royal paid, and returned them to the departure points at the end of the each day. Id. The employees were prohibited from using their own transportation to get to the job sites. Id. The California Supreme Court found the level of Royal’s control over its employees meant they should have been on the clock while on the busses, since the employees could not commute to the job sites on their own, decide which route to take, or which mode of transportation to use. Id. at 586-87. The Morillion decision means that an employer must compensate employees for their compulsory travel time, including time spent waiting for your employer’s transportation to take you to work. See id. at 587.

It is true that an employer may provide and require you to take a company vehicle without having to compensate you for travel time. However, if the employer subjects you to restrictions, such as not permitting personal stops, forbidding you from picking up passengers, and forbidding the use of a cell phone except to answer calls from company headquarters, the employer may be liable for that travel time. See Rutti v. Lojack Corp., Inc., 596 F.3d 1046, 1061-62 (9th Cir. 2010).

In general, if you take advantage of optional company-provided transportation, your employer does not need to pay you for travel time. See Overton v. Walt Disney Co., 136 Cal. App. 4th 263, 271 (Cal. Ct. App. 2006). For example, Disney did not have to compensate employees for the time they spent on a free, optional shuttle bus provided by Disney from the employee parking lot to the entrance of Disneyland. Id. The Disneyland employees could take alternative forms of transportation, such as taking public transportation, a vanpool, or getting dropped off, so they were not under Disney’s control. Id.

You might also be entitled to compensation for travel time under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act if you perform any work that is deemed to be an “integral and indispensable” part of your main work activities. D A & S Oil Well Servicing, Inc. v. Mitchell, 262 F.2d 552, 555 (10th Cir. 1958). Such activities include picking up and transporting necessary equipment or receiving work instructions at a meeting point prior to traveling to the work site. See, e.g., Smith v. Aztec Well Servicing Co., 462 F.3d 1274, 1289 (10th Cir. 2006). Furthermore, you should almost always get paid for travel time from job site to job site in a single day, assuming that such travel is not a part of your normal commute from home to the normal job site, or between home and the first or last job site. See Wirtz v. Sherman Enterprises, Inc., 229 F. Supp. 746, 753 (D. Md. 1964). For example, employees who install cable, make repairs to telephone lines, inspect houses, or wait to receive the next limousine driving assignment are all entitled to be paid for the time they spend getting to one work site to another. See Steelman v. Telco Tel. Co., 2001 WL 21361, at *1, 3 (D. Or. Jan. 5, 2001); Ghazaryan v. Diva Limousine, Ltd., 169 Cal. App. 4th 1524, 1527-28 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008).

If you believe you are not receiving proper compensation for travel time between job sites, or for travel time where your employer requires you to meet at mandatory location prior to traveling to your job site, or if your employer restricts what you do when you travel to or from work, or imposes work requirements on you during this travel time, please contact Bryan Schwartz Law.

12 comments:

  1. I'm amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that's both equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this in my hunt for something regarding this.
    SeniorJobNow

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  2. My company is deducting the first 1/2 hr of travel to the first site of the day from home using a company vehicle. I am doing research on the legality of this. They do allow personal stops within reason, and no phone restrictions were ever mentioned.

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  3. My company is deducting the first 1/2 hr of travel to the first site of the day from home using a company vehicle. I am doing research on the legality of this. They do allow personal stops within reason, and no phone restrictions were ever mentioned.

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    1. It is all a matter of whether the time is in the employer's service, in the employer's control. Generally, commute time is non-compensable, but if you are transporting workers, tools, not allowed to detour for personal reasons, not allowed to carry family members as passengers, etc. - then it may be compensable work time.

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    2. I use the company transport to take me from home to work but the problem is...the money that is deducted from my salary as to pay the transport

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    3. Whether the time is compensable may depend on whether the transport is optional or mandatory. Whether you can be billed for transport also depends, maybe, on whether you have to take the transport, or whether you are just paying for a shuttle that is totally optional.

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  4. My company is taking money from my salary as for transportation from where I reside to work....for dayshift and nightshift as well.

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    Replies
    1. Whether the time is compensable may depend on whether the transport is optional or mandatory. Whether you can be billed for transport also depends, maybe, on whether you have to take the transport, or whether you are just paying for a shuttle that is totally optional.

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  5. My company (in Connecticut) requires employees to take a shuttle from an employee parking structure, just like Overton vs Disney, except their policy states that if employees are dropped off, walk, or use public transportation they must still use the shuttle and enter through the employee/security entrance. You may not walk or drive to the security entrance, you must take the bus. From there we must walk to our respective departments time clocks to begin getting paid. We are not compensated for this travel time.

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    1. The crux of the issue is how much the employer is controlling/restricting your time and how much the transportation time is integral/indispensable to you doing your job - if they are restricting it a lot, and requiring that you expend this time in order to do your job, you may have a claim under the FLSA. Be mindful of the 2-year (or 3-year, if willful) statute of limitations that is ticking! I don't know enough about Connecticut law to comment on that.

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  6. I drive a company vehicle home. I work out of this truck all day and it contains all of the tools & materials I need to perform tasks at multiple sites. I have a set route of multiple job sites that I work at throughout the day.
    My employer claims they don't have to pay me for the my commute time to/from my home to whichever my first/last job site. If I was only transporting myself I would agree but I'm physically driving a necessary piece of equipment without which I cannot do my work.
    I'm also providing parking and security for that vehicle at night.
    What do you think?

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  7. It is a case-by-case assessment, when it comes to travel time. Feel free to contact my firm, bryan@bryanschwartzlaw.com, with any questions.

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