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Massachusetts Break law & Delivery Drivers

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  • Massachusetts Break law & Delivery Drivers

    If a regular non-exempt hourly employee is designated to perform general delivery duties (pick-up and drop-off of non-regulated cargo) in a company vehicle like a van (that is, no Commercial Trucking rules apply), how do you prudently apply the 30 minute lunch/break rule?

    If the employee elects to work through the lunch break and is paid for it, I believe all is well.

    But if the employee wishes to take the break, what is the practical result? Do you have to allow the driver to return to quarters so that they can leave the office building and have access to their personal motor vehicle for the duration of the break? Is it enough to allow them to pull off into a parking lot along their route for 1/2 hr and step out of the vehicle? In this context, how far are you required to go to relieve them of their duties? I am trying to find a suitable position that keeps the vehicle and cargo secure, prevents the vans from being driven far off-route, prevents the marked company vehicles from showing up at a strip club or liquor store, but still complies with the law.

  • #2
    If you want to keep the vehicle and cargo secure, I don't see how you can do that unless you 1) require the driver to return to the office (and that drive time would be compensable) or 2) require the driver to stay with the vehicle, which time would more than likely also be compensable. because the employee would not be fully released from duty (watching the vehicle, if not actually in it).

    cbg, DAW, any other ideas?
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


    • #3
      None at all. I've never been in a position where we had delivery drivers; I've had employees who had to drive for work but they always had pretty much free choice of when to drive (outside salespeople, etc.).

      I will point out that MA is one of the very few states where the lunch break must be paid if the employee is not allowed to leave the work site (though how that would apply in this case I also don't know - helpful, aren't I? )
      The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


      • #4
        Thank you for looking into this. I am not as concerned about paying for the lunch break (I am fairly nice about lunch and breaks, I pay them all unless the employee physically leaves the grounds, essentially if you are under my rules/authority -- I will keep you on the clock). For example, in the summer months our production area gets hot, so I allow shop floor staff to decide when they need water breaks and some hot days I will lose an hour or so for those breaks over the course of a day, but I pay all those hours as it supports safety, increases quality and gives morale a little boost.

        What I am wrestling with is that even if I keep the driver on the payroll clock, did I meet the requirement of the "break" if I have them find a legal and safe place to park along their route (like a fast food or mall parking lot) and let them lock up the van and go to the restaurant or food court for 30 minutes or let them brown bag lunch and eat in the van (parked safely).

        I of course want to comply with the law, want to be fair to the driver who wants the break, but I also want to keep in mind that courier routes are hard to schedule and cover, even without this wrinkle.


        • #5
          MA is not my state, so no idea on any MA specific rules.

          If we are instead talking federal rules only, then per the regulation (29 CFR 785.19), then we do not have unpaid time unless "The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purposes of eating regular meals". If the employee is being required by the employer to baby sit the vehicle, that is arguably time worked.

          My one concern is that a lot of "stuff" unrelated to hours worked is being included in the OP's list of things that they are worried about. The more "stuff" one includes, the harder it becomes to come up with simple solutions. For example, if the employee is really on their own time, why would stopping at a liquor store or strip club be a problem? If however the employee is on the clock, then the employer should be (at least) concerned that the employee is not actually working while on the clock.

          The federal rule on meals is very short and very simple. I am not comfortable with trying to include a lot of unrelated issues whose primary impact is maybe to make a simple issue into a complicated issue. What exactly is the main problem trying to be solved? Perhaps a little triage is in order.
          "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
          Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


          • #6
            I will try to be more precise.


            The driver will be paid from when they punch-in for the day and are continuously on the clock until the punch-out to go home, no time deductions for any reason.

            A driver decides that they do not want to voluntarily work through lunch, and they are scheduled for a travel day predicted to be greater than 6 hours (let us assume it is a 9 hour day).

            They are driving a van with the company name on it.


            If the driver is allowed to park the van along their route in a safe public parking area and allowed to exit and lock the vehicle for 30 minutes so they can go in a restaurant to eat lunch or to sit on a park bench and eat their brown bag lunch, and they do not have to answer the company cell phone during the 30 minutes, and they are not required to maintain visual to the van, is that a sufficient release from their duties to satisfy the break requirement?


            They cannot drive the company van to run personal errands.

            While they would have a lot of latitude in deciding where to have lunch along a route, the driver would face some constraints, such as they would not be allowed to park at a strip club and have lunch there.

            The driver would have a 30 minute period where they had no business interruptions in which to eat a meal. They would not have to "watch" or "babysit" the van, but it would be expected that they park in a likely safe place, like a mall lot or a restaurant lot, as opposed to that dark alley behind the boarded up building in that high crime area downtown.


            • #7
              My opinion as to the answer to your question would be yes, that would be enough "relief of duty" to be a bona fide meal break.

              You could track the vehicle with GPS.
              I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


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