I blogged the other day about a USDOL travel time Opinion Letter for the construction industry and foremen in that industry. The employer seeking the advice posed three scenarios and wanted answers about the foremen and the laborers that also ride in the trucks. In this installment, I look at the issue of compensable time for the laborers who work for these foremen.
In the first scenario, the job site is near or within the same city as the employer’s main site of business. Each foreman retrieves a company truck in the morning from the employer’s principal place of business, drives it to the job site, and returns it at the end of the day. In the second scenario, the job site is between 1-4 hours travel time from the employer’s principal place of business. Each foreman retrieves a company truck from the employer’s principal place of business at the beginning of the job, drives it to the job site, and returns it at the end of the job. In the third scenario, the facts are identical to the second situation, but the laborers choose to travel between the remote job site and their homes each day rather than stay at the hotel.
In the first situation, the agency opined that the travel time of the laborers is normal commuting time and not compensable. What is important here is that the agency noted that if the employees choose to meet at the employer’s main job site and ride with the foreman as a passenger in a Company vehicle, the fact they meet there did not convert the home-to-work travel time into compensable work hours. The Opinion Letter also observed that if laborers were away overnight, staying at a hotel, the hotel became their home and travel from that temporary home to the job site did not convert the time to work hours.
The Opinion Letter affirmed the longstanding principle that laborers who drive their personal vehicles to a remote job site at the beginning of the job and home at the end of the job are not owed compensation if they have the choice of doing so. In other words, if the employer requires the workers to, simply, be at the job site to perform their duties and they are not commanded to travel in that way, then the time is not compensable.
The Opinion Letter then noted that when the laborers were travelling to a remote job site, as passengers, outside of their normal working hours, such time would not be compensable. If these employees were traveling to a remote job site during their normal working hours, that time would be compensable, even if the day was not a usual workday (e.g. Monday-Friday).
Then, the Opinion Letter focused on those laborers who wanted to drive their personal vehicles to the main employer site and then ride, as a passenger, with the foreman, to the first remote job site. In that scenario, if the employer offers to transport laborers to the remote job sites in the company trucks but a laborer chose to drive his own vehicle, the employer could count as compensable time either (1) the actual amount of compensable time the laborer accrues in driving to the remote job site or (2) the amount of time that would have accrued during travel in the truck. In the last scenario, laborers choose to drive from their houses to a distant or remote job site every day. The travel time in this situation would not be compensable.
The Opinion Letter notes that travel-time regulations do not address every conceivable situation in which an employee must travel for work. They focus, rather, on the principles which apply in determining whether travel hours are working time. This is part of the laudable goal of explaining how hours-worked principles apply under certain, repetitive situations. Again, I strongly believe this Opinion Letter (as others) is important for guiding employers how to conduct their businesses and how to stay compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Because, as we all know, compliance is the ultimate goal…