The Washington Supreme Court ruled last week that employees must be paid for time spent driving between their homes and the first and last jobsite in company-issued trucks. The drive time was “time worked” under the Washington Minimum Wage Act because the employees were “on duty” and in a “prescribed workplace.” Key factors were the employer’s strict control of the technicians’ activities and the trucks’ integral role in the employees’ performance of their duties.

In Stevens v. Brink’s Home Security, Brink’s technicians installed and serviced home security systems. Technicians were assigned trucks bearing the Brink’s logo and carrying Brink’s equipment. Some technicians kept the truck at their home and drove it directly to and from the first and last jobsites. Brink’s compensated technicians for the drive time in between jobsites, but not for the time they spent driving between their homes and the first and last jobsites, except in narrow circumstances. A class of 69 technicians challenged this practice. The Washington Supreme Court held in favor of the technicians and affirmed an award of backpay, interest, attorney’s fees and costs. The Washington Minimum Wage Act requires an employer to compensate an employee for all hours worked. Stevens is the first case to hold that “hours worked” may include employee commute time. The majority engaged in a two-step analysis, first determining that the technicians were “on duty” during the drive time and, second, that the company truck constituted a “prescribed workplace.”

Technicians were “on duty” because Brink’s strictly controlled the drive time and prohibited technicians from engaging in personal activities while driving. For example, Brink’s expected technicians to obey all traffic laws, not park haphazardly and lock the vehicle at all times. It prohibited carrying non-Brink’s employees as passengers or using the truck for shopping. While en route, technicians were to remain available and could be redirected at anytime.

The Court also deemed the truck a “prescribed workplace.” Technicians worked almost exclusively from the trucks, reporting to Brink’s office only once each week. It also deemed the company trucks a “prescribed workplace” because the truck was essential to the employees’ performance of their job duties

Employers who provide employees with a company vehicle should pay close attention to the degree of control they exert over employees during their drive time and the vehicles’ role in the employees’ performance of their duties. Determining whether an employee is entitled to compensation for drive time in that vehicle is likely very fact specific.

It remains unclear whether an employee could be entitled to compensation for drive time in a private vehicle when used for company business.