Do I Need To Pay My Employees For On Call Commuting?
Question: I’ve read through the Legal Toolbox, but didn’t see this one specifically. First of all, our employees who are on the “on call schedule” are provided company-owned vehicles that they take home with them each night. Our employees are paid hourly. When they get a night call after they’re already home for the day, do we have to pay them from the time they leave their home until the time they get back home? Or is it permissible to only pay travel time one way (e.g., start the clock when they leave their home and then stop it when they leave the call at the customer’s home, assuming it’s not a commute that’s out of the ordinary)? We want to be fair, but not pay more than we are required to.
Answer: You’re required only to pay for time spent working and not for commuting time (i.e., the time spent driving to or from the call). However, in this scenario, working time would also encompass the time spent in receiving the dispatch. There’s a phone call (or text, email, etc.) to the employee directing him to respond to a customer. Perhaps the employee speaks directly to the customer, perhaps the communication is with a supervisor, but somehow the employee is notified to take the service call–the time spent on that communication is compensable. Legally, we can stop the clock running after the dispatch communication ends and start it again when the employee reaches his or her destination–again, commuting time is not compensable. Of course, if the employee must drive to the shop to pick up a part before going on the call, compensable time begins upon arrival at the shop. Likewise, if the employee must swing by the shop after leaving the night call–to drop off paperwork or for some other work purpose–that time is compensable. As a practical matter, while we don’t want to overpay, the recordkeeping hassle may be such that it could be simpler to pay starting when the tech gets the call and ending when he or she finishes the job. Alternatively, assuming no stops at the shop, you could pay only for the actual time at the customer’s site and add, say, a half hour for the time receiving the dispatch if 30 minutes seems a reasonable allowance. Bear in mind that Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits are the darling of the plaintiff’s bar these days so err on the side of making sure all work time is compensated.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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