Use of Employer-Provided Vehicle to Commute May Be Compensable
On September 3, 2015, the Ninth Circuit provided additional guidance into compensability of commute time under the California Labor Code in Alcantar v. Hobart Service, 800 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2015).
Plaintiff Alcantar was a service technician who performed certain maintenance and repair services. Although he was assigned to a branch, Alcantar spent most of his time driving between his home and customer locations in an employer-provided vehicle where he carried various tools and replacement parts for the repairs he was required to perform. Hobart Service paid Alcantar for the time spent driving from his home to the first customer location and from the last customer location back to his home only if the commute exceeded his commute to and from his assigned branch.
The plaintiff challenged this practice by filing a class action, which alleged among other things, that Hobart Service failed to pay overtime wages for time spent commuting. Hobart Service moved for summary judgment on the basis that the company did not require its technicians to commute to and from work in the employer-owned vehicles. The district court granted Hobart Service’s motion.
The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court noted that although commute time to and from work is not typically compensable under California law it could be compensable if Alcantar, and the putative class members, were under the control of Hobart Service while commuting. The court based its decision on the following facts: technicians could be held financially responsible for tools and parts stolen from their vehicles, Hobart Service did not provide enough secure parking spaces at the branches to accommodate leaving all service vehicles overnight, and Hobart Service expected its technicians to respond to calls on company-issued cell phones while driving to and from their first and last customer of the day.
This opinion is of particular relevance and concern to maintenance, construction and food services industries. Employers that furnish vehicles to their employees should review their policies and practices relating to employee use of the company-vehicles and compensability of commute times.
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