Swartz Swidler, a renowned New Jersey employment plaintiff law firm, recently secured a groundbreaking ruling on behalf of Service Technicians in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. The court ruled that time spent driving from technicians’ homes to their first assignment, and from their last assignment to their homes, may be compensable under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.
In the case of Stebbins v. Petro. Equip. Servs., Civil Action No. 21-15117 (SRC), 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42484 (D.N.J. Mar. 9, 2022), Swartz Swidler represented a Service Technician who sued Petroleum Equipment Services d/b/a WildcoPES for unpaid overtime wages under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New Jersey law. The technician’s duties involved traveling to WildcoPES’s customer sites daily in a specialized company truck that carried all the necessary tools and equipment. Though he earned hourly wages and overtime for hours exceeding 40 per workweek, WildcoPES did not count travel hours between his home and assignments as hours worked under federal and state law.
While the Court determined that such travel time did not qualify for compensation under the FLSA’s Portal-to-Portal Act and Employment Commute Flexibility Act amendments, it held that the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law did not adopt these FLSA provisions. As a result, the court found that if the technician could prove that Wildco PES required him to use the company vehicle, keep it at his home, and that this arrangement benefited the company, his commuting time would be compensable under New Jersey law.
This decision, coupled with the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division’s recent ruling that the statute of limitations for overtime claims under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law is six years, could expose companies to significant damages. The law also allows employees to recover triple the amount they are owed when liquidated damages are included.