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Telework before commute: Is drive time paid?

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

Many employees spend time at home before or after their workday checking email on PCs and smartphones. For nonexempt employees, that work could count as paid time if it amounts to a “substantial” amount of time.  

But now some hourly employees have begun to raise a related issue: If they start the day with a few work emails, shouldn’t they be paid for the time they spend commuting to work?

That question made it all the way to a federal court recently. Fortunately for employers, the court nixed the em­ployee’s argument. Had the case gone the other way, employers could have faced huge bills for paid commuting time.

The case: Greg Kuebel worked for Black & Decker and spent most days visiting Home Depot locations throughout New York. Before he left home each day, Kuebel would respond to email, load his car with supplies and prepare 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. Reason: By perform­ing tasks at home before starting the day, he came under the so-called “continuous workday rule.” It says 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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