Court decisions are gradually making rules clear to employers regarding travel time while on the clock.
Irrigator Technical Training School shares that court decisions are gradually making this clear to employers: Non-exempt (hourly) employees are owed wages when they engage in activity that meets one or more of the following criteria:
- It is required by the employer.
- It benefits the employer.
- It is essential for employees to perform the duties.
One recent court decision found that the employer — Hillsborough County, FL — owed overtime pay to employees who were required to drive as part of their jobs. (Burton v. Hillsborough County, 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals)
Facts of the case: Certain engineers’ duties required them to drive to
job sites throughout the county to inspect the work of subcontractors. The employees drove county-owned vehicles to get from site to site. However, the employees were required to drive their personal vehicles to a secure county parking site and pick up a vehicle to drive to the work sites. At the end of each day, employees returned the county vehicles to the parking site before returning home in their own vehicles.
The county vehicles contained tools and equipment the employees used to perform their jobs. They also served as satellite offices where employees could perform work at job sites.
However, the county didn’t pay employees for time spent driving from the parking site to the first work site, or from the last work site back to the parking site.
So some of the employees brought action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), for overtime pay for time spent commuting in county vehicles.
The U.S. District Court concluded the travel time was compensable “because retrieving and returning the county vehicles containing tools and equipment necessary to perform their jobs constituted a principal activity under the (federal) Portal-to-Portal Act, and was therefore compensable travel time under the FLSA.” And the court concluded “that storage of the vehicles and equipment at secure county facilities principally benefited the county…”
Appeals Court decision: The county appealed the district court decision. Earlier this year, the Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s decision and stated:.
“Preliminary and postliminary [pre- and post-work] activities…are compensable if they are ‘an integral and indispensable part of the [employee’s] principal activities.’”
“…If an employee driving an employer-owned car is required to return to the employer’s premises after a day’s work prior to returning home, that time is compensable under the FLSA.”
“…When an employer derives ‘significant benefit’ from the activity at issue, that activity is principal to the performance of the work for which the [employees] are employed, and is therefore compensable.”
“…getting a county vehicle from the parking site and driving it to the first work site and returning it to the parking site was integral and indispensable to the [employees’] principal activities… Under the County’s policy the employees’ workday could not begin or end without first going to the county parking site.”