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Employees recently won a big battle in court and are now allowed to pursue a jury trial. A California Appeals Court sided with the employees and held that they can seek commute time and mileage reimbursement. The Court reversed the lower court ruling that sided with the employer because only a jury can decide the issues of fact raised by the employees.

In Oliver v. Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc., the Plaintiffs were employed by Konica Minolta Business Solutions as service technicians who were required to use their personal vehicles to travel to homes and businesses to provide printing and copying services to customers. The IT business, paid for travel time and reimbursement for mileage only during working hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The employees sued the employer, seeking commute time and reimbursement for mileage incurred during commuting to and from work.

The Employees argued that commuting to and from work with the company tools, qualified as “hours worked” under the law. “Hours worked” generally means the time during which an employee is under the control of an employer. The employees alleged that the Company required them to carry company tools in their personal vehicles and that it caused them to be under the control of the employer.

The Court determined that both parties have to pursue a jury trial because only a jury can decide this factual dispute. The Court did note that if the Company required the employees to carry company tools and that the tools themselves made the employees think they were under the control of the Company, then the jury would have no choice but to find in favor of the employees as the employees would win the factual dispute. You can read the Opinion here.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

This decision is important for employers because it illustrates how an employer can still be liable for commute time and mileage reimbursement even with company policies in place that identify that this time coming and going time is not compensable to try and cover it. With the growing number of companies that are working from home, it is necessary for employers to be aware of this case because many companies may provide company tools to their employees in a way to avoid coming into the business or shop to pick those tools up. If you have any questions or concerns about your company’s travel time or expense and tool reimbursement policies, please contact the experts at Dowling Aaron Incorporated, Saqui Law Group Division.

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