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Washington - required actions not payed for?

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  • Washington - required actions not payed for?

    I work for a non-ambulatory medical transportation company in Washington. There are some questions in the way we are paid and requirements they have imposed on all the drives that I need some clarifications on. The following is a list of items I hope someone can enlighten me on as it pertains to labor law and whether or not this company can in fact do this.
    1. At what moment are we considered on the clock?
      Example: My first client is due to be picked up at 9 am. The trip to their residence takes 20 minutes from the office (remember this is the first client of the day) which means we have to leave the office no later than 8:40 am. We are required to do a vehicle inspection which takes @ 10 minutes if done correctly. This means we have to take possession of the vehicle no later than 8:30.

      Problem: This employer looks at the time we pick the client up, in this case 9 am, then subtracts 15 minutes and that is our starting time which again in this case would be 8:45. There are times that we have clients that live 30 minutes up to 50 minutes away. No matter, the employer still subtracts 15 from pick up.

      Question(s): Is this even legal? We still are required to do the inspection and can be written up for it if we don't but since that is on our time how is that possible? Logic dictates that once we take possession of the vehicle in the morning that would be out starting time. Thoughts??
    2. Lunches
      Example: During the day we could have times during the day that we are on standby. Basically, if there are no rides available once we drop off a client, we are told to take a break. We are never given the amount of time we might be on standby either. We still have the vehicle and are still in uniform. Sometimes last from just 10 minutes to 2 hours (on rare occasions). There are times when we have two or three standby times a day depending on the schedule.

      Problem: When looking at the times they calculate our time worked for the day, they take out an hour for lunch. The major problem is there are no dedicated time to take lunch. We have to take our lunches with us in hopes we have time to eat it. I have never had the opportunity actually go to even a fast food joint because every time i have tried, I get a radio call a client is ready. This means there is no way I could have lunch at a sit-down type restaurant.

      Question: Can they take an hour off our time for lunch when we are required to remain available at a moments notice to pick up a client? It was my understanding that all employers are required to give employees either one full hour for lunch or a 30 minute lunch and two 158 minute break if that employee works 8 hours or more each day. Am I wrong??
    3. Gas up vehicles
      Example: My last client drop off is at 5:30 pm. It takes 10 minutes to get to the gas station we are required to use and fill the vehicle with gas. Afterwards, they have provided a 'Gas Log' we are required to fill out giving details of the fill ups (time, vehicle number, gals, total cost and pump number). The fill up process and the log being filled out takes about 10 minutes. At that point we leave the station and head back to the office.

      Problem: Again in reviewing the sheets they determine our working times for each day, they stop calculating our time at the given time of our last drop off. In the example, this means I stopped getting paid at 5:30, meaning gassing up their vehicle and filling out the log is on my personal time.

      Question: Since I still have possession of the vehicle and still in the execution of my required job duties, shouldn't I be paid for this added time? Never fails however, this time has never been counted as time worked.
    4. Returning to the Office
      Example: After the above example of filling the vehicle with gas, the trip back to the office takes @ 10 minutes. So 20 minuted to get to the station and get gas, then another 10 minutes to the office adds up to 30 minutes each and every day I and all the drivers are not getting paid.

      Question: I am pretty sure this is not legal in terms of labor law but I want the feed back for you all before proceeding. Am I way out on a limb here or does this sound like we are getting shorted at least 2.5 hours a week just in gassing and returning a vehicle each week?
    5. Cleaning the vehicles
      Example: This one takes the cake but the other drivers are letting it happen but that doesn't make it right. This employer requires us to clean the vehicle we drive each and every week. They want us to wash the outside and the inside as well as vacuum the carpets too. The kicker is they want us to take it to a car wash and want us to pay for it. If we don't want to take it to a car wash the give us a bucket, no hose mind you, and a shop vacuum to be done at the office. The office location is not practical because you have to fill the 5 gal bucket up as a small bathroom sink with cups. In my mind they make it so difficult to do it at the office that you just take it to a car wash to make it easier.

      Question: Since they require this, should they still be paying us for the cleaning? Keep in mind, we do not take the cars or vans home every night but park them at the office every night. How are they getting away with this?
    6. Pre-Employment Drug Screen
      This employer required a pre employment drug test, as most companies do. However, I found on my last check that they deducted the cost of the test from my pay check. Is this even legal? I have never had this happen with all the firms I have worked for in the past. I am stumped and a little pissed off?!?!

    I know this is a lot but rather than having separate threads for each question, I lumped them together in a effort to get individual answers as well as getting advise as to the direct I should take. I have a wife and three kids and this is the only job in the household. I like the concept of the job but I also feel they are taking much needed money from me and my family. So before I make a move to get this rectified or just plain out quit, I want to see if I have a leg to stand on as it were.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy post and thank you for any and all comments and advise you can offer.

  • #2
    I can answer some of the questions. Looking at federal law only (FLSA), if the employer controls the hours worked, the hours worked generally is hours paid. The one big exception are "commutes". There is a very specific exception created by the Portal to Portal Act that very specifically excludes commutes from the legal definiition of hours worked. So the big issue is whether or not certain drive time is a commute or not. This is not a simple yes/no question. You need to look very hard at each trip one at a time and not assume that there is a magic yes/no answer applicable to all trips.
    - Where is the vehicle kept when not being used? Is it used for the commute or non-business purposes?
    - FLSA is a 1930s law. Portal to Portal Act is a 1940s law. Every issue that can be raised has been raised and decided. Talking about logic is fine and dandy, but point in fact, the issues will be decided based on prior decisions.
    - If you can take commutes off the table, then the next question is whether or not you have any control over your time while you are waiting for the call to come in. If you are forced to wait at work, probably not. If you however are in the park reading a book or having a meal, this is very likely NOT hours worked until the call comes in. The clock likely starts when you start actually working (driving to the stop) and likely stops when you complete the delivery. But as always, each trip has to be reviewed separately.
    - Federal law only, you must be paid (at least) minimum wage and overtime if applicable. If this happens, the feds do not care about deductions for drug testing (or much else).

    Your state is not my state. I have no idea what WA state law is.
    Last edited by DAW; 03-28-2012, 06:54 AM.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


    • #3
      I saw this thread yesterday evening & thought that's one I'm leaving for DAW.
      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

      Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.


      • #4
        It sounds like you must report to the office to pick up the transport vehicle each morning. Once you do, the clock starts. Bonafide breaks of longer than 20 minutes need not be paid, but 10 minute respites between appointment pick ups do. Also, if you are not taking an hour for lunch, they may not deduct an hour for lunch. They may require you to take an hour off for a meal break and take disciplinary action if you refuse but they still must pay you for the time worked. There is no requirement that you be permitted to have a meal at a sit down restaurant or even fast food.

        Your state does require 10 minutes of rest break for each 4 hours worked and a 30 minute meal break if you are scheduled for more than 5 hours.

        As for the time spent gassing up the vehicle, completing paperwork, returning the vehicle and cleaning up, you must be paid for that time as well. I did not see anything referencing paying for the cost of going trough a car wash but they must pay you for the time spent cleaning the vehicle so I'd save a few bucks and do it myself. Talk to your tax advisor about writing the cost of the car washes off on your taxes as a business expense.

        Deducting the cost of the drug test is most likely legal so long as you make more than minimum wage but you can always call your state DOL and ask to be sure.
        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.


        The forum is intended for informational use only and should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for legal advice. The information contained on are opinions and suggestions of members and is not a representation of the opinions of does not warrant or vouch for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any postings or the qualifications of any person responding. Please consult a legal expert or seek the services of an attorney in your area for more accuracy on your specific situation.