The Washington Supreme Court recently issued an important decision for employers whose employees take a company vehicle home and use it to commute to and from work. In Stevens v. Brink’s Home Security Inc., Brinks, a home security firm, allowed its technicians the option of either picking up the company vehicle at the company’s local headquarters, or, alternatively, taking the company vehicle home and driving it between their homes and their first and last job site. In most instances, Brinks did not pay employees for their commute time spent driving to and from the company headquarters or to and from the first and last job site.
In a 7-2 decision, the Court found that the Brinks drivers were both on duty and considered to be on the company premises (or at the prescribed work place) during the time they were driving to and from their homes in the company vehicles, and thus this time was considered “hours worked” under the Washington Minimum Wage Act. Accordingly, Brinks was required to pay its employees for this commute time.
What Does This Case Mean for Employers?
Employers that allow employees to take a marked company vehicle home at night and use it to commute between their home and job site are now arguably required to treat that commute time as work time and pay employees accordingly. However, there are a number of factual issues in Brinks that may or may not be applicable in any particular employer’s practice. The Brinks case involved a truck that was marked with the company logo and the company 800 number; the employer could re-direct the employee during the time spent driving between the home and first job site; the truck transported tools and equipment necessary to do the job; employees were prohibited from conducting any personal activities or business while using the trucks; and the employees worked directly from the truck performing duties such as completing paperwork.
What Should You Do If Your Employees Use Company Vehicles for Commuting Purposes?
Other situations and practices may vary, but any employer that allows employees to use company vehicles in a similar way should review this issue with counsel.