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Employment Law/punching in on time

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Question
Our situation is a little unique for where we work. A bus must shuttle us in from the parking lot where we park which is about a mile or so away from the main building where we can punch in. We are forced to come in 15 minutes early and be on company property and wait for the bus so we are not late. There is no punch in station where the buses pick us up. Can we be paid for this time since we are on company property and on company time even though its not our fault that the buses can make us late and they refuse to put punch in stations in a reasonable spot from where we are forced to park?

Answer
Alexander:

Under Federal law, in general, walking or riding time prior to the actual commencement of your work shift is, under the terms of Section 4(a)(1) of the Portal-to-Portal Act, not considered compensable working time.  It is not part of the "principal activity" for which your employer pays wages.  If you are not asked to perform any work or do any activity for the benefit of the employer's business during your waiting and riding time, and are free to pursue personal activity such as reading a newspaper, reading or sending email or text messages, etc., this would strengthen the employer's argument that the time is non-compensable.  

On the other hand, if you are required to do anything during your waiting and riding time prior to actually punching in, such as picking up tools, receiving instructions from the employer about your work, talking to customers, etc., then once you start any such activity your "clock" would be deemed to have started under the law, even if you have not yet actually punched in.

Questions on this topic are always very fact-specific, so you may want to go ahead and contact the nearest field office of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to speak with a staff person and get further guidance.  You can find the nearest office by looking up your state on the map at the top of this web page:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/

I hope you find this helpful.

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Frank C. Magill

Expertise

I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.

Experience

30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

Organizations
Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

Education/Credentials
J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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