Is Travel Time Compensable

By Staff Report

Oct. 26, 2006

Aztec Well Servicing Co. employees were encouraged to ride together to their eight-hour shifts because specific kinds of vehicles were required to access the work sites. Because of safety procedures and limited parking, it was easier for an entire crew to access work sites together.

The employees argued that they were entitled to overtime for their commuting time because they met at a company-designated location, brought safety equipment and paperwork with them, purchased food and beverages for their shift at the convenience store where they met, and often talked about work-related matters during their commuting time in the car.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver held that the Portal-to-Portal Act, which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, did not require that these employees be paid for the time they spent commuting because they were permitted to eat, sleep, listen to the radio or choose not to participate in the car pool. According to the court, commuting is only covered by the federal overtime law if the travel is an integral and indispensable part of the employee’s principal activities. Smith v. Aztec Well Servicing Co., 10th Cir., No.04-2153 (9/12/06).

Impact: Employees who are required to carry their safety equipment during their commuting to and from work, obtain food and drinks for their shifts, and discuss their jobs during their commuting are not necessarily performing integral and indispensable “principal activities” warranting overtime pay.

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