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Not paying travel time - California

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  • Not paying travel time - California

    My husband is a field engineer for a laboratory company based in NJ. He travels to hospitals in Southern California and fixes the company's lab equipment when it's broken. I am not entirely sure what his classification is, I am guessing non-exempt salaried. He is paid an annual salary which is based upon 37.5 hours per week. There are days when he does not have any calls and he stays home doing administrative work and he is still paid the same. If he works over-time he is paid over-time in addition to his salary.

    Recently my husband was told that his company is planning to deduct an hour of pay each day for travel time. He doesn't have a home office since travels to different accounts from his home. He has always been paid from his start time (8:00 am) until the time that he gets home (or 7.5 hours whichever is greater). How can they just deduct an hour, that is completely arbitrary. What if his actual travel time was 2 hours? I don't know if this makes a difference, but he drives a company vehicle and he transports tools and parts to the account. Is this legal in California?

    TIA

  • #2
    When do they start the work clock running? From the time he sets foot in the car or from the time when he arrives at the location where he needs to do the actual work?
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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    • #3
      He is paid from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Unless he is doing scheduled maintenance at an account he doesn't leave the house until he gets a dispatch from his company. If he gets a dispatch at 1:00 pm and goes into an account and ends up working until 6:00 pm he gets paid from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm even though he didn't actually leave the house until 1:00 pm. This is why I have always been unsure of his classification. It would seem like he is exempt because he gets paid for 7.5 hours regardless of whether he works 7.5 hours, but he also gets paid for over-time.

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      • #4
        There is a federal law (Portal-to-Portal Act) that basically says commutes are not hours worked. This is a very old and well established law. CA law is more employee friendly then federal law on travel time, but even CA does not normally consider commute time to be hours worked. Having a unusual commute to a non-fixed location does not certainly change this but it does raise interesting issues. I can give you a pointer to a CA-DLSE opinion letter. It does not fully address your points, but it is the closest guidance that I have seen CA-DLSE issue on the subject.
        http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/opinions/2003-04-22.pdf

        ...he drives a company vehicle and he transports tools and parts to the account does not by itself make the commute hours worked under either federal or CA rules.

        It you want to take a harder look at the general CA rules, download a copy of the CA-DLSE manual, say chapter 46.
        http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Manual-Instructions.htm

        The federal rules are in the 29 CFR 785.33-785.41 range.
        http://www.dol.gov/dol/allcfr/ESA/Ti...9CFR785.33.htm
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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        • #5
          Thanks DAW!
          Based on the link you posted it looks like they can deduct the travel time from when he leaves an account until the time he arrives home. I don't believe they can deduct the travel time to an account since he is under the employers' directive at that point. They have told the employee's that they are going to deduct 1 hour of pay each day which I believe is illegal if the employee's commute time is less than an hour on any given day because then they would be deducting from actual hours worked.

          I also believe that his offer of employment listed an annual salary so I am not sure if they can just start paying him less. They have always paid for travel time which has set a precedent.

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          • #6
            Unless he has a contract, they can stop paying travel time which is no longer compensible. Same goes for reducing his pay. Unless he has an actual contract which guarantees him a set amount per year (this is extremely rare and even more so in a position like his) they can reduce his wages or implement policies which result in loss of compensation.
            I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

            Comment

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