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Washington State Supreme Court Rules that Drive Time in Company Vehicles is Compensable Under Minimum Wage Act

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In Stevens v. Brink's Home Security, the Washington State Supreme Court held that Brink's violated state wage and hour laws by failing to pay technicians for time spent driving Company trucks from their homes to the first jobsite and back home from their last jobsite. This drive time, according to the Supreme Court, is work entitling the technicians, who were non-exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements, to additional pay.

Brink's compensated all technicians for time spent driving between jobsites. For time spent driving to the first jobsite and from the last jobsite, Brink's offered two options. The first option allowed technicians to drive their personal vehicles from their homes to the Brink's office in Kent where they could pick up a Brink's truck and proceed to their first jobsite. The second option allowed technicians to drive the Brink's truck home and to proceed to the first jobsite directly from home bypassing the office in Kent. Technicians who selected option two were paid for drive time to the first jobsite or home from the last jobsite only if the drive time exceeded 45 minutes. The technicians alleged that all time spent in the Company truck was "hours worked" and therefore compensable under the Washington Minimum Wage Act.

The Washington Minimum Wage Act does not define "hours worked," nor does it specifically address whether drive time is compensable. The Department of Labor and Industries defined hours worked as "all hours during which the employee is authorized or required . . . to be on duty on the employer's premises or in a prescribed work place." WAC 296-126-002(8) Thus, to determine whether the technicians were entitled to pay, the Supreme Court considered whether the technicians were "on duty" at the "employer's premises" or a "prescribed work place."

Deciding Factors

In analyzing whether technicians were "on duty" when driving the Brink's truck, the Court considered the extent to which Brink's restricted personal activities and controlled technicians' time. The Court relied on the following in deciding that the technicians were on duty:

  • Trucks could only be used for Company business;
  • Technicians could not carry non-Brinks' employees as passengers in the truck;
  • Brink's required technicians to wear seat-belts, obey traffic laws, lock the vehicle, and refrain from carrying alcohol in the vehicle;
  • Technicians could not run errands in the truck;

In addition to these factors, the Court found persuasive the fact that technicians received their jobsite assignments at home via voice mail or handheld computers, and spent time mapping the best route to reach their jobsite locations before starting their drive. Moreover, Brink's management could redirect technicians when they were en route to and from their homes. For these reasons, the Court held the technicians were on duty during the drive. The second question confronted by the Court was whether the Brink's truck is a "prescribed workplace" under WAC 296-126-002(8). The Court found that the truck was a "workplace" because it was an integral part of Brink's business. Specifically, technicians reported only once per week to the Kent office, they completed work-related paperwork in the truck, were required to drive the truck to reach customers' homes, and were required to carry the necessary tools and equipment in the truck. Also, technicians were required to keep the truck clean, organized, safe, and serviced. For these reasons, the Court held that technicians were entitled to pay for time spent commuting from home to jobsite.

Review Your Policies

This decision does not mean that employees who drive company vehicles are automatically entitled to pay for time spent driving from their homes to the workplace, or to an alternate worksite. Nonetheless, Washington employers should review company policies to determine what restrictions are being placed on the use of company vehicles, and the extent to which such employees work from their vehicles. Employers may also want to consider whether allowing non-exempt employees to drive company vehicles provides a significant benefit to the company overall.