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Some work at home doesn’t make commute paid

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

Many employees spend time at home before and after their workday checking email on computers and smartphones. For nonexempt employees, is that paid time? It often is, if it takes a “substantial” amount of time.

But now some hourly employees have begun to argue that if they begin the day with a few work emails, they should be paid for the time they spend commuting to work.

Fortunately, a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals panel has nixed that argument. Had the case gone the other way, employers could have faced huge bills for paid commuting time.

Recent case: Greg Kuebel worked for Black & Decker and was assigned to Home Depot locations throughout his territory in New York. At home, he synced his personal digital assistant with company computers to record his time. He also read and responded to emails, loaded his car with supplies and prepared displays.

Black & Decker paid Kuebel for all driving time after the first 60 miles, but considered the rest to be noncompensable commute time.

When Kuebel was terminated for poor performance, he sued for back pay. He claimed he had been working overtime all along, despite recording just 40 hours per week. He argued he should have been paid for the entire time it took him each morning to get to his first Home Depot stop.

Kuebel’s argument was that by performing tasks at home before starting the day, he came under the so-called “continuous workday rule.” That rule says that time spent after beginning work each day is compensable even if it involves driving to another location.

The court rejected his argument. It reasoned that Kuebel was not required to complete the tasks before or after his regular workday tasks and could have performed them at other times. (Kuebel v. Black & Decker, No. 10-2273, 2nd Cir., 2011)

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