I have defended many claims and lawsuits involving working time, especially travel time. Employees are continually seeking innovative ways to convert their otherwise non-compensable home-to-work travel into compensable work hours. These efforts often fail, as illustrated by a recent case where Chicago police officers sought pay for transporting and storing their guns and then retrieving them. The Court found this activity was not sufficiently connected to or integral to their primary duties. The case is entitled Bartlett et al. v. City Of Chicago, and was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
The officers’ theory was that the time was compensable because it helped them be ready for their primary function of responding, on a moment’s notice, to dangerous situations. The Judge disagreed, finding that although the activity of storing and retrieving their guns supported their primary function that did not “mean that they are integral and indispensable” to that function.
The Judge aptly noted that the effect of finding this small amount of time was compensable would mean that the commuting time of the officers from their homes to the police station would be compensable, as their work day would have already started. The Judge stated that “the law prohibits a finding that such efforts are compensable when they primarily consist of commute time.”
The Judge also was guided by a Ninth Circuit decision where firefighters tried to claim overtime compensation for loading and transporting their gear to fire stations. The Ninth Circuit found that these activities were “two steps removed” from their primary duties and the Judge here also found the activity too attenuated to the primary duty of the police officers to warrant compensation.
The Court held, quite aptly, that “while keeping SWAT gear at home may promote the overall goal of critical incident response, it is not integral and indispensable in much the same way that a firefighter’s loading and transporting of gear is not integral and indispensable to fire suppression.” That, to me, is the essence of the holding.
Employees are always seeking to elevate the status of things they may have to carry or keep in their cars so as to make all their home-to-work travel time compensable. In the 1990s, canine police officers did it by claiming carrying their dogs in their patrol cars converted the time. I won a Second Circuit case, Kavanaugh v Grand Union, where the worker claimed his transporting his tools converted his travel time. They keep trying.