A recent decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates that, sometimes, employers are required to compensate employees for time spent driving to a work location. See Meeks v. Paco County Sheriff, No, 16-16932, 2017 WL 2116130 (11th Cir. May 15, 2017). In Meeks, a deputy sheriff drove his personal car to a “secure location” at the beginning of every shift. He retrieved a patrol car from the “secure location” and drove to his patrol zone. His employer refused to compensate him for the time driving from the “secure location” to his patrol zone.
The Portal-to-Portal Act discusses activities, associated with work, that are not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers are not required to pay employees for: (1) traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which the employee performs; or, (2) activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to the employee’s principal activities. 29 U.S.C. § 254(a). But, an employee’s principal activity or activities are compensable. Meeks, 2017 WL 2116130 at *2.
In Meeks, the Eleventh Circuit found that the time driving to the patrol zone was compensable, because it was part of the deputy’s principal activities. The term “principal activities” includes all activities that are an “integral and indispensable” part of the employee’s duties. Meeks, 2017 WL 2116130 at *2. An activity is “integral and indispensable” if it is an intrinsic element of the activity and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform the activities. Id. The Court found that driving the patrol car from the “secure location” to the patrol zone was an “intrinsic element” of the deputy’s principal activity — patrolling for crime. Because driving to the patrol zone was part of the deputy’s principal activities, that drive time was compensable.
In most cases, time spent by an employee driving to work is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act — particularly time spent driving from home to work. But, Meeks demonstrates that there are always exceptions in the law. Employers should review their drive-time compensation policies to ensure that they are complying with the FLSA.