SW Legal studies in Business

Workers Need Not Be Paid Commute Time When Required to Carry Briefcase
Description

Appeals court held that employees who are required to take work-related materials with them to and from home need not be compensated for their commute time. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires compensation when an employee is performing work, not a minimal chore like this.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Fair Labor Standards Act; Commuting; Compensation; Retaliation

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Fire alarm inspectors who work for New York City go to the central office once a week to turn in inspection files completed and to pick up new inspection files for the coming week. Inspectors must carry these materials with them. They weigh 15-20 pounds. The inspectors contended that, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), they should be paid for their time to commute to and from home to work each day because they must carry materials with them. Carrying the materials makes the commute harder. One inspector complained about not being paid for his commute time and contends he was subject to retaliation for enforcement of his FSLA rights. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city. Plaintiffs appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The mere carrying of a briefcase containing fire inspection documents during daily commute, without any other employment-related responsibilities, did not transform the inspectors’ commute into compensable work under the FSLA. One is compensated for commuting time if the employer requires the employee to perform a significant amount of work during the commute. The requirement that they carry the documents is only a minimal burden and does not control their use of commute time, as they are free to do what they like coming and going to work. The inspector who complained about having to carry the documents was not engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment, so there is no retaliation claim that can be made. This was a dispute over work requirements.

Citation Singh v. City of New York, 524 F.3d 361 (2nd Cir., 2008)

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