Superior Court Judge Rules On Behalf of Technicians-Pay Them Extra for Standing Around!
A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge in her infinite wisdom has ruled that technicians are entitled to be compensated for standing around as they are awaiting their next job assignment. The decision has a far reaching effect because it could/will potentially involve any employee who is being paid by “piece rate.”
This particular case was a wage and hour class action lawsuit filed by 108 current and former service technicians of a car dealership (I am deliberately withholding the name!) who worked between April 2002 and June 2008. As you can see this case has been going on for awhile. The techs in this case had three initial issues that were presented on their behalf. The first was based on missed meal periods, the second; uncompensated time spent while on the clock (waiting time); and the third for penalties for failure to pay the waiting time at the time of termination. The meal period claim was eventually tossed out and the main focus of the case was the issue as to whether the techs in question should be paid (while on the clock) as they stood around waiting for their next assignment.
Now, understand what this means. The techs clock in every day and as we know they get either their flag hours or they get paid for their actual clocked hours whichever is greater. Documentary evidence at the trial showed that the techs may have stood around (as an average) .3 and .8 of an hour during one time frame (going back to 2002) but between 2006 and 2008 they averaged 1.85 hours per day.
The Judge determined that even though the employer paid the techs the minimum wage of $16.00 per hour for all clocked hours, and were paid the greater of those hours and flagged hours, the techs should have also been paid for the time during which the techs was still subject to the control of the employer whether he had an actual assignment or not.
This is a ridiculous decision! If the techs are being paid for the clocked hours or flagged hours, why should they be paid an additional amount for merely waiting for their next assignment? This Judge is requiring they the techs clock the time that they are standing around to determine what the additional amount they would be owed (pinch me mama I must be dreaming!!). This is going to create a nightmare for record keeping as well as open the flood gates of litigation for similar claims.
This is a case that is probably heading to the California Supreme Court which means this issue will be lingering for the next couple of years. In the interim, it is hard to determine what employers should do because they same issue could be argued at the Labor Board level or another court action all of which render a contrary decision. At a minimum employers need to keep accurate time keeping records as to any time a tech is not physically working on an assignment. A log of some sort may be helpful. I am shooting from the hip on this because the truth is we just don’t know what this judge expects employers to do moving forward.