Does My Employer Have to Pay Me for Time Spent Driving to a Job Site?
Federal and state wage hour laws require employers to pay employees a certain minimum wage for every hour worked. But what exactly constitutes “work”? For instance, does your employer have to pay you for time spent commuting to the office or another job site?
With respect to most daily commutes, the answer is no. Under the law, an employer does not have to pay the minimum wage or overtime compensation for any time an employee spends “walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform.” In other words, even if you have to sit in traffic for two hours each day commuting to and from New York City, your employer does not have to pay you for that time.
Security Guards Entitled to Pay for Time Spent Taking Company Vehicles to Certain Job Sites
However, there are cases in which an employer may have to pay an employee for time spent reporting to a “meeting place” or “waystation” to “pick up and carry tools” necessary to perform the employee's job. In these scenarios, only the time spent going from the waystation to the final worksite is actually compensable. The employee is still not entitled to pay for any time spent commuting from home to the waystation.
A recent decision from a federal magistrate judge in Manhattan offers a helpful example of how the law works in this area. This case, Williams v. Epic Security Corp., was tried before the magistrate without a jury. The defendant is a private company that provides security guard services. The plaintiffs were security guards who worked for the defendant.
The crux of the plaintiffs' lawsuit was that they were often required to use company-owned vehicles when patrolling job sites. The plaintiffs therefore claimed they were entitled to compensation during the time spent driving these vehicles from the defendant's offices to the job sites. The defendant disagreed, maintaining that in many cases the vehicles were offered as a “convenience” to the plaintiffs–using company cars helped the employees save money on gas, tolls, and insurance–and therefore any travel time should be treated as part of their regular, unpaid commute.
The magistrate judge effectively split the difference. He determined that some of the plaintiffs were in fact required to use company vehicles, typically at the request of the defendant's clients, and therefore those employees were entitled to pay for time spent driving the vehicles from the defendant's offices to the job sites. But those plaintiffs who only used the company vehicles for convenience were not entitled to additional pay.
Speak with a New York City Wage and Overtime Lawyer Today
Wage and overtime issues often confuse employees who simply do not understand their legal rights. That is why it is a good idea to consult with an experienced New York City employment attorney if you suspect your own employer is not following the law. Contact the Nisar Law Group, P.C., today if you need to speak with someone right away.