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Beware of requiring lengthy travel without paying for worker’s time

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

As a refrigerator and utility mechanic, David Kavanagh traveled to more than 50 stores. Although his employer paid him for travel time during the day, it didn't cover his commute to the first job and home again from his last job. He estimates that he was traveling seven to eight hours a day, including the travel to and from home, and says the company owes him more than $37,000 in overtime.

A court said the situation seemed inequitable, but nothing in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires the employer to pay for that commute. (Kavanagh v. Grand Union Co., No. 98-7696, 2d Cir., 1999)

Labor Department regulations do not require employers to pay employees for their normal travel time between home and work, but they don't define what is normal.

In Kavanagh's case, the court said, "This extensive travel was a contemplated, normal occurrence under the employment contract."

Advice: This case is not a green light to increase travel time without compensation. Commuting that is not customary or contemplated as part of the employment relationship has to be compensated. One of the judges, in a dissent, noted that the rules the majority relied on can be rejected if a court decides they are unsound.

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