Pennsylvania minimum wage did not apply to time spent traveling

An employee who traveled long distances from his home to project sites for work, and also had to travel between project sites was not entitled to compensation under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA) for the hours he spent traveling on the days he was not scheduled to work at all, ruled a federal magistrate judge in Pennsylvania. However, the court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss with respect to the employee’s claims revolving around other travel time.

The employee’s job with a railroad construction company required him to travel from his home to various project sites, and to travel between project sites. He was generally scheduled to work for eight consecutive days on 10.5 hours shifts, followed by six consecutive days off. According to the employee, at times he was required to travel to project sites that were long distances which made it impossible to commute on a daily basis. On those occasions, he was expected to travel to the project site on the evening before the first 10.5 hour shift and stay in a hotel, motel or other temporary housing.

Because it was equally as far for the employee to travel home from those sites, he alleges that he was required to make at least part of the trip “during regular working hours on the day after the eighth consecutive 10.5 hour shift.” He also alleged that he was required at times “to travel from one project site to another during the eight-day period between the first 10.5 hour shift and the eighth 10.5 hour shift,” and that sometimes it was necessary for him “to travel between project sites during [his] normal working hours.”

Filing suit under the PMWA, the employee claimed the employer failed to properly compensate him for certain time that he spent travelling. His employer filed a motion to dismiss.

Hours worked. Under the PMWA, “hours worked” is defined as: time during which an employee is required by the employer to be on the premises of the employer, to be on duty or to be at the prescribed work place, time spent in traveling as part of the duties of the employee during normal working hours, and time during which an employee is employed or permitted to work.

The employer contended that the employee failed to allege that he was required to perform any duties or tasks on its behalf while traveling and that the travel time at issue was merely ordinary commute time in which anyone who works outside of their home must engage. It further argued that any time the employee spent traveling before or after the eight-day period when he was scheduled to work did not occur during “normal business hours,” and that time travel between project sites was no different than commuting between home and a project site.

Travel on days he was not scheduled to work was not compensable. Here, the court observed that the employee’s use of “regular hours,” “normal working hours,” and “daytime hours” interchangeably created an ambiguity which made it difficult to discern precisely the travel time for which he sought compensation. Nonetheless, the court noted that it was clear that the hours he spent traveling on the days he was not scheduled to work at all were not compensable under the PMWA. Travel before or after the employee’s eight-day work period necessarily fell outside his normal working hours.

The employee could not rely on the FLSA, under which travel on regular work days as well as travel during corresponding hours on non-work days is compensable. Rather, the court observed that Pennsylvania has not adopted the federal statute and the language in federal regulations that speaks to travel time differs dramatically from that of the PMWA. The PMWA regulation refers only to “time spent in traveling as part of the duties of the employee during normal working hours.” Thus, to the extent that the employee sought compensation under the PWMA for travel during days he was not scheduled to work, those claims were dismissed with prejudice as he was clearly not working on those days and thus could not have been traveling during his normal working hours.

However, the employer’s motion to dismiss was denied with respect to claims revolving around other travel time. (Espinoza v. Atlas Railroad Construction, LLC, January 22, 2016, Kelly, M., No. 15-1189.)

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