U.S. District Court Considers Glass Installer's Claims Against Employer; Denies Summary Judgment on Travel Time Claims
March 1, 2010

A U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Va., recently ruled that it would not make a partial summary judgment in the case of a glass installer's suit against his former company, BECCM Co. Inc., doing business as both Albemarle Glass & Mirror Co. and Virginia Glass Co.), with regard to his travel time claims alleged in the suit. The installer, Keith Jackson, who worked for the company from January 2008 to February 2009, filed the suit last August, and makes several claims against both his former employer and BECCM director and president Brent Wright. Though many of the claims are personal in nature (as Jackson alleges the company discriminated against him as an African-American employee and harassed him as well), the suit also addresses the topic of travel times for glass installers and whether installers should be compensated for that time in certain instances.

Jackson claims that, in various instances, he was required to report to the office of the glass shop, pick up a company vehicle, and then travel elsewhere to complete a job. At the end of the day, he would then return the vehicle to the office, according to the case. Jackson claims that he should have been compensated for his travel time both to and from the job site, though BECCM had advised him the company would only compensate him for one leg of the trip each day-either his time driving to the job site or back to the office-but not both.

"Shortly after Mr. Jackson completed his first week of work with Defendants, Defendants informed Mr. Jackson that it was Defendants' policy to compensate their workers for only one leg of their daily two-leg travel time to and from the company's office to the jobsite," reads the original suit, filed in August 2009.

Jackson alleges that this violates the Fair Standards and Labor Act (FSLA) and that the business was "required under the FLSA to compensate Mr. Jackson and the similarly situated employees for their work and travel time at an hourly compensation rate and at time-and-a-half for any and all overtime hours worked … "

Though BECCM has since filed a counterclaim against Jackson, alleging that he was required to return the vehicle to the business each day because he had previously used the company vehicle "in an unauthorized manner, and BECCM hoped to prevent such further misuse." Likewise, BECCM claims that, on the days when Jackson traveled to the office to pick up a company vehicle and had to return it at the end of the day, he had the option of using his own personal vehicle to travel to the jobsite and back, without an additional stop at the office.

"Only on those occasions where plaintiff chose to use the benefit of the company vehicle was he then required to return the vehicle at the end of the day," wrote Judge Norman Moon in his recent opinion.

Moon continues, "I find that a partial judgment on the pleadings on this issue is unwarranted. Though BECCM has stated in its answer that it did, in some instances, require plaintiff to return to the corporate office at the end of the workday, that requirement may well have been in place only to the extent that plaintiff chose to partake in the benefit of employer-provided transportation. The pleadings do not make clear that the plaintiff was absolutely required to return to his employer's office at the end of the day. Rather, the entirety of that requirement may well turn on the employee's voluntary decision to use an employer-provided vehicle, rather than to use his own transportation."

BECCM has filed several counterclaims against Jackson, alleging that he caused damage to the company regarding a particular contract and that he misreported his hours to the company. Though the court has declined to uphold either of these claims, Judge Moon did rule that BECCM's conversion claims were "sufficiently stated," with regard to Jackson's use of the company vehicle for personal use.

"Based on the alleged restriction on the use of company vehicles, Jackson's alleged personal use of a company vehicle would be outside his permitted use, and therefore would be inconsistent with BECCM's rights," writes Moon. Jackson had motioned that the claim be dismissed-and with this opinion that claim was denied.

Neither John H. Kitzmann of Davidson & Kitzmann PLC, who is representing BECCM, nor Robert Scott Oswald of Law Offices of Employment Law Group PLLC, counsel for Jackson, was available for comment at press time.

CLICK HERE for the full text of the recent opinion.

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