In Rutti v. Lojack Corp., 596 F.3d 1046 (9th Cir. 2010), Rutti filed a class action on behalf of all technicians employed by Lojack to install alarms in customer cars. The lawsuit alleged that Lojack unlawfully failed under both federal and California law to compensate him for certain commute time.
Specifically, Lojack provided Rutti, who worked from home, a company car and required him to travel throughout the day to various customer locations. Lojack paid Rutti on an hourly basis for the time period beginning when he arrived at his first job location and ending when he completed his final job installation of the day. Rutti’s lawsuit alleged that this compensation was inadequate because Lojack failed to pay him for the time he spent traveling from home to the first customer and from the last customer back to his home.
Although the Ninth Circuit held that under the federal Employee Commuting Flexibility Act, this commute time was not compensable, the court reached the opposite conclusion under California law. In doing so, the court relied heavily on Morillon v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575 (2000), which stated that California law requires that employees be compensated for all time “during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer.” The Morillon court held that the plaintiffs in that case were “subject to the control” of their employer during a mandatory bus commute to and from work because during their time on the bus, “plaintiffs could not drop off their children at school, stop for breakfast before work, or run other errands requiring the use of a car.” The Rutti court determined that just like the plaintiffs in Morillon, “Rutti was required to drive the company vehicle, could not stop off for personal errands, could not take passengers, was required to drive the vehicle directly from home to his job and back, and could not use his cell phone while driving except that he had to keep his phone on to answer calls from the company dispatcher. . . . There is simply no denying that Rutti was under Lojack’s control while driving the Lojack vehicle en route to the first Lojack job of the day and on his way home at the end of the day.” Id. at 1061.
Consequently, under Rutti, California employers who require their employees to commute in company cars and who place restrictions on that commute should carefully review their compensation policies concerning such commute time.
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