While it is well established that standard commuting time from home to work (and back home again) is non-compensable, there is limited guidance as to application of this preliminary, non-compensable “commuting” window to the travel time associated with varying employment circumstances. Providing some clarity to employers within the Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court’s ruling rejecting a claim for compensation for time spent on a second passive “commuting” leg on a mandatory company bus. Griffin v. S&B Eng’Rs & Constructors, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 785 (5th Cir. 2013).
In Griffin, the hourly employees at the refinery in question participated in a “mandatory park and ride scheme” wherein, by matter of company policy, they would drive their personal vehicles to a single lot, then ride six to seven miles on a company bus to the job site (a refinery expansion), a trip of some 20 or 30 minutes. While Plaintiff and the other employees did not perform any work during this second leg of the commute, they asserted numerous arguments that the time should be compensable under the FLSA. Specifically, they argued that the time should be compensable because the ride was mandatory and they were subject to the company’s rules of conduct while on the bus. Rejecting these arguments, the court declined to adopt a per se rule rendering mandatory travel time compensable, instead focusing on the lack of work performed by the employees and the fact that the passive travel was not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ duties on the construction site.
Travel time compensability issues continue to raise questions for employers and spark litigation. A positive decision like Griffin will be celebrated by the employer community, but should also be used as an opportunity to analyze one’s own business practices under federal and applicable state law.