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Employee travel on company business California

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  • Employee travel on company business California

    I recently started a new job, which involves quite a bit of driving (in my car). In the interview I asked about mileage reimbursement. They didn't specify how I would be reimbursed for my driving expensess, instead I was given a vague answer about how they "pay for gas". I have since learned that they use some secret formula to decide how much they will reimburse employees for our expenses in driving our cars on company business. What they pay doesn't cover my gas, and obviously doesn't cover the actual costs of using my car for company business (e.g. wear and tear on my tires, on my engine, etc.) I'm averaging 500 miles a week on my car to do this job!

    I have several questions.

    1) If I go into the company office first 1 day a week, but travel directly to the job location (a customer location) on the other days of the week without going into the office first, is this first trip a "commute" trip, or am I entitled to mileage for that trip? The office is just a few miles from my home, the job sites are often more than 30 miles away.

    2) I have no control over my schedule. They often route me so that the first and last legs of each day's schedule are the furthest stops from my home! Does this affect anything?

    3) What about being paid for my time to drive to from the first/last customer site, or driving to each subsequent customer job site?

    4) What about 15 minute breaks and meal breaks? I rarely get any breaks at all unless a customer cancels after the schedule is drawn up, leaving a hole in the schedule. They pencil in a 30 minute meal break between appointments but in order to do all the tasks I am supposed to do at each customer site there is never any time to actually take the break. They often claim our meal break exists is between 2 consecutive appointments where no break in the schedule exists.

    5) As a result of the scheduling issues, I regularly work 10-12 hour days, when you add in driving (in rush hour, in a busy metro area) and various customer caused delays during my day. Am I entitled to overtime?

    6) They reduce the amount they pay "for gas" if I don't actually go to each job site. E.g. if they schedule me for 6 job sites but 2 customers cancel, then they only pay for 4/6 of the travel - even when I still had to drive the same distance (because the first and last jobs are so far from my home and from each other). Is this legal? Or are they required to figure how much I actually drove (or accept my records of how far I drove) and pay according?

    7) Someone who has worked for this company for more than 4 years said that at some point in the past 4 years they started paying "gas money" - before that they didn't pay employees anything at all to compensate for all the driving the employees do in the course of doing their jobs. If what they are paying now isn't legal, is is possible for employees to get compensated for the unpaid (or underpaid) driving they did in the past? Would this be something the state would investigate, and if so which department? Or would the employees have to hire an attorney? Would it be a class action matter? Is there a limit on how far back they would be required to pay for mileage?

    I would really appreciate cites to labor law, opinion letters, or even labor attorney websites that discuss any of these issues, so that I can use those as citations for why the company needs to pay me more for compensation of my vehicle expenses.

  • #2
    California Labor Code section 2802.
    (a) An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.
    (b) All awards made by a court or by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for reimbursement of necessary expenditures under this section shall carry interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions. Interest shall accrue from the date on which the employee incurred the necessary expenditure or loss.
    (c) For purposes of this section, the term "necessary expenditures or losses" shall include all reasonable costs, including, but not limited to, attorney's fees incurred by the employee enforcing the rights granted by this section.

    --------
    CA DLSE Enforcement Manual

    29.2.4 IRS Mileage Allowance. DLSE has opined that use of the IRS mileage allowance will satisfy the expenses incurred in use of an employee’s car in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

    http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Manual-Instructions.htm
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for your reply and links. This was very helpful.

      I'm still unclear on if they are required to pay for my travel from my home to the first appointment, especially since it can often be more than 30 miles, yet the office is just a few miles from my home.

      Comment


      • #4
        CA-DLSE (and the feds for that matter) are less then clear on this particular question. Under the federal Portal-to-Portal Act, commutes are not hours worked. And federal DOL almost never require mileage reimbursement. Under a similar IRS ruling (not a law), IRS does not consider commutes to be "qualified" (non-taxable) expense reimbursements. (IRS never requires reimbursement, just determines the taxability should it occur).

        The one CA-DLSE opinion letter I am familar with that sort of discusses the subject interestingly does not seem to come to an actual conclusion. So, short answer, your guess is as good as mine. You can try filing a wage claim. It works or it does not. It is fairly common for CA-DLSE to not issue clear public opinions on certain subjects. Presumably because they do not (yet) know what they want their position to be.
        http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/opinions/2003-04-22.pdf.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by DAW View Post
          CA-DLSE (and the feds for that matter) are less then clear on this particular question. Under the federal Portal-to-Portal Act, commutes are not hours worked. And federal DOL almost never require mileage reimbursement. Under a similar IRS ruling (not a law), IRS does not consider commutes to be "qualified" (non-taxable) expense reimbursements. (IRS never requires reimbursement, just determines the taxability should it occur).
          But what is the distance of my commute, if the office is a few miles away, and they repeatedly send me to the furthest appointments for the first and last appointments? It appears that they are intentionally trying to shift the mileage expense to me by scheduling the furthest away appointments for my first and last appointments (which also greatly increases my work day), rather than putting a close appointment first or last. Does the frequency that they schedule my furthest appointment first or last (rather than in the middle, making my trip a loop out and back during the day) make any difference?

          How do I file a wage claim?

          Thanks!

          Comment


          • #6
            CA-DLSE has to my knowledge not clarified their position since my post earlier this moring. I have no idea what-so-ever to the answer for your question. Until/unless CA-DLSE clarifies their position, I will never know the answer to your question.

            Regarding the filing of wage claims:
            http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToFileWageClaim.htm
            "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
            Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

            Comment

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