SACRAMENTO — A company-issued vehicle used by an employee to travel from home to their first call does not transform that commute into work time, a California appeals court recently affirmed in a class action by telephone company technicians.
Time spent by Pacific Bell Telephone Co. technicians driving company vehicles under the company's Home Dispatch Program (HDP) is not compensable as work time, a California Third District Court of Appeal panel ruled in its 17-page decision issued Nov. 15.
"Otherwise, as observed earlier, the commutes of police officers who carry guns, or indeed, employees who carry badges, would always be compensable," the decision said. "As Pacific Bell argues, if carrying equipment necessary for the job were always compensable, every employee who carries a briefcase of work documents or an electronic device to access work emails to and from work would need to be compensated for commute time."
The appeals court noted that loading a vehicle with tools and equipment at Pacific Bell's garage is compensable under the company's HDP and that travel time when employees are transporting equipment without which their jobs could not be done is compensable.
Justice Elena J. Duarte wrote the decision in which Justices William J. Murray Jr. and M. Kathleen Butz concurred.
Lead plaintiffs in the case, Israel Hernandez and Larry Michael Sharp, filed the class action on behalf of all Pacific Bell technicians claiming the class members had not been paid for time spent transporting equipment and tools in company vehicles to and from their first and last jobs. The class claimed Pacific Bell failed to pay them minimum wage, to timely pay wages and committed other unfair business practices based on a failure to pay for the transporting time.
The appeals court panel affirmed an earlier judgment by Sacramento County Superior Court, which found the travel time is not compensable.
"We agree and affirm," the appeals court decision said. "First, the Home Dispatch Program is not compulsory; because the plaintiffs here were not required to use the company vehicle to commute to work, they were not under the control of the employer. Further, simply transporting tools and equipment during commute time is not compensable work where no effort or extra time is required to effectuate the transport."