Is Compensation Required When Driving to a Work Location?

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By Keith M. Hill

“I should be paid for the time I spend driving back and forth between this storage depot and my patrol area,” police officer James Reid said to his department's payroll manager, Peter Malloy.

“You are not compensated because that is not considered part of your work time,” Malloy said.

FACTS: A former county deputy sheriff sued the sheriff under the Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming that the sheriff violated the FLSA by failing to pay him for time he spent driving his patrol car to and from a secured parking location.

The former deputy, who worked as a road patrol officer, was assigned a patrol car for use in carrying out his patrol duties. Because he lived more than 15 miles outside of the county where he worked, the sheriff did not allow him to store his patrol car at home when he was not working. Instead, he was required to store the car at a secure location within the county.

Each morning, the officer drove his personal car to one of the sheriff's patrol division offices, parked, and retrieved his patrol car. He then drove the patrol car to his designated patrol zone.

During the drive to his zone, the sheriff required him to activate his police radio and automatic vehicle location system and to respond as needed to emergencies. At the end of his shift, he drove his patrol car from his patrol zone to the patrol division office, parked, and drove his personal car home.

Unless the officer responded to an emergency while transporting his patrol car between the patrol division office and his patrol zone, the sheriff did not compensate him for that transportation time.

The sheriff violated FLSA overtime provisions by not paying him for the time he spent driving the patrol car between the patrol office and his patrol zone, the deputy said in his complaint. The court ruled in favor of the deputy after concluding that transporting his patrol car between the patrol office and his patrol zone was a compensable activity because the driving was “integral and indispensable“ to performing his patrol duties.

The sheriff appealed the court's ruling.

ISSUE: Was the deputy entitled to compensation for the time he spent driving to and from his patrol zone?

DECISION: The deputy was entitled to compensation for the time he spent driving his patrol car between its storage location and his patrol zone, a federal appeals court ruled.

The Portal-to-Portal Act identifies the employee activities that are not compensable under the FLSA. An employer is not required to pay an employee for “traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities” that the employee is employed to perform or “activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to” an employee's principal activity or activities, the court said.

The phrase principal activity or activities includes “all activities which are an integral and indispensable part of” the duties that an employee must perform, the court said. An activity is integral and indispensable to an employee's principal activities if the activity “is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform” his activities, the court said.

Driving his patrol car between the Patrol Division office and his patrol zone was a compensable activity because it was an intrinsic part of his principal activities, his patrol duties, the court said. The patrol car was integral to his patrol duties and the deputy relied on the car and its police radio to maintain contact with the sheriff and to respond to calls assigned by the sheriff, the court said.

If the deputy did not transport his patrol car between a secure location and his patrol zone, he could not have patrolled his zone and fulfilled his duties as a road patrol deputy, the court said.

The court cited a Labor Department regulation stating that travel from a required meeting place to the work place is part of an employee's day's work and must be counted as hours worked ( Meeks v. Pasco Cty. Sheriff, 11th Cir., No. 16-16932, 5/15/17 ).

POINTERS: The Portal-to-Portal Act excludes from FLSA's minimum wage and overtime pay requirements time spent by an employee “walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities,” unless such activities are compensable under the terms of a contract, custom, or practice.

Employees must be compensated for all of the time they spend on their principal work activities, which include “any work of consequence performed for an employer.” Principal activities include all the duties, tasks, or actions that are an integral part of the employee's job.

All closely-related duties, including preparatory and concluding activities, that are indispensable to the performance of a worker's principal activities also are considered principal activities.

For more information, see Payroll Library's “Determining Hours Worked” chapter.

By Keith M. Hill

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This analysis illustrates how courts resolve pay-related disputes. The names and dialogue are fictitious.

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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