Commuting in Company Vehicle May Be Compensable Under California Labor Code -- Rutti v. LoJack

The Ninth Circuit decision in Rutti v. LoJack highlights the sharp distinction between the federal definition of compensable "hours worked" and the more generous standard under the California Labor Code. 

Rutti was a technician who installed LoJack anti-theft units in customers' cars.   He was dispatched directly from his home to the homes of customers, where he installed the anti-theft units.  During these trips he was required to use a company vehicle and was prohibited from making any personal stops or detours.  His employer only paid hourly wages, however, from the time he arrived at the first customer's house until he finished the last installation job of the day. 

The Ninth Circuit found that time Rutti spent "commuting" is specifically excluded from compensable time under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").  Rutti was therefore not entitled to FLSA pay for the time he spent traveling to and from his first and last jobs of the day.  

By contrast, California law requires compensation for all time "during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer."   Under this standard, the requirement to use a company van and to refrain from any personal business was sufficient "control" to trigger the employer's duty to pay compensation under the Labor Code.

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