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Travel and Meal Times May Be Compensable

December 23, 1998
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Related Topics: Wages and Hours, Featured Article
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Two recent decisions demonstrate that time spent by an employee primarily for an employer’s benefit must be compensated.

In the first case, five foremen of the Rich Kramer Construction Co. used company vehicles to transport workers, equipment and supplies to various work sites each day from a central shop. They were also required to load equipment and review blueprints at the shop. The company classified the foremen as commuters and did not pay them for their time in the shop or travel time. The foremen sued, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The district court and the court of appeals held that the activities were performed for the employer’s benefit. Each foreman was awarded $33,700 in back pay. Herman vs. Rich Kramer Construction Inc., 8th Cir., No. 97-4308WMS, 9/21/98.

In a similar case, 16 maintenance workers of IBP, a beef processing plant, sued IBP for violations of the FLSA. They alleged that the company’s practice of not paying them for their 30-minute meal periods, despite frequent interruptions for problems requiring immediate attention, was a violation of the FLSA.

The district court and the court of appeals held that because the maintenance workers couldn’t use meal periods for personal business and were frequently required to work during them, the meal periods must be paid. They were awarded back wages, overtime and liquidated damages. Bernard vs. IBP Inc. of Nebraska, 5th Cir., No. 97-1-955, 9/21/98.

Impact:
Employers must compensate employees for all time spent primarily for the employer’s benefit.

Source: D. Diane Hatch, Ph.D., a human resources consultant based in San Francisco, and James E. Hall, an attorney with Barlow, Kobata & Denis, based in Los Angeles and Chicago, December 18, 1998.

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