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On November 15, 2018, in Hernandez v. Pacific Bell Telephone Co., the Third Appellate district held that employees are not entitled to compensation for time spent driving an employer-provided vehicle loaded with equipment and tools between their home and a worksite under a voluntary program that allows employees to take the Company vehicle to their home.

Plaintiffs, who were premises technicians for the Defendant-employer, installed and repaired high speed internet services in customer’s homes. Technicians were not allowed to use their own vehicles on the job, but were required to use a vehicle provided by the employer. In 2009, the employer started a “Home Dispatch Program,” where technicians could opt to take their employer-provided vehicle home at the end of their shift instead of returning it to the employer garage. The use of the Home Dispatch Program was purely optional—meaning that the employees could keep storing their employer-provided vehicle at the garage should they wish. Instead of being paid from the time they arrived at the garage to pick up their vehicles, Technicians who participated in the Home Dispatch Program were paid from the time they arrived at the first worksite.

Defendant-employer argued that commuting time was compensable in California only if the commuting was mandated, and because participating in the Home Dispatch Program was optional and voluntary, the time was not compensable. Plaintiffs contended that the Technicians participating in the Home Dispatch Program were under the “control” of the employer because the vehicle could only be used for company business and the technicians were required to keep their tools in the vehicle.

The Court held that under the California Supreme Court’s decision in Morillion v. Royal Packing, travel time is compensable when it is compulsory or required. Because Technicians were not required to participate in the Home Dispatch Program, the commute time from their home to the first worksite was not compensable. Further, the court held that transportation of tools, which does not add time or exertion to a commute, does not constitute “work” under California law.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

Compensable travel time remains a hotbed issue in California that affects a wide range of industries. Particularly in agriculture, whether time farmworkers spend traveling in company-provided transportation is compensable is a heavily litigated issue. If you have questions about your company’s transportation policy or practices, contact The Saqui Law Group.

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