Maryland’s wage and hour law may extend beyond the time an employee spends at a prescribed workspace to include time spent getting to the work site using transportation required by the employer, Maryland’s highest court has decided.
In a 7-0 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals on July 14 reversed two trial court dismissals of claims by workers seeking unpaid and overtime wages under the Maryland wage and hour law. The court returned the cases to lower court for further proceedings so a jury can decide on the facts of each case.
The high court found that the time (two hours per day) that construction workers spent gathering at a specified parking area and being bussed to the construction site of the MGM National Harbor resort and casino, if required by the employer, constitutes “work” compensable under Maryland’s wage and hour law.
If, however, the workers were not required to report to the parking area, under Maryland’s law the workers would not be entitled to compensation for that time.
The construction firm, DGS Construction, maintained that federal laws—the Portal-to-Portal Act (PPA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)— provide that traveling to the actual place of principal employment activity is not compensable.
However, the state ‘s high court found that the issue had not been resolved under Maryland law and that the state has not implicitly adopted the federal position. What constitutes “work” under Maryland law is not limited to what is compensable work under the PPA and FLSA, the court said.
In the two cases, workers accessed the construction site on buses supplied by the general contractor for the MGM project. The buses took them from a parking area to the construction site and back. The firm did not compensate the workers for their wait and travel time, either coming or going from the parking area. The workers were told that this was the only way they could get onsite, and that they could be fired for reporting to work any other way. The general contractor stated that it would revoke access to the MGM project site for any construction worker who violated the policy by parking a vehicle elsewhere.
The contractor said it provided the parking area located approximately 2.3 miles from the MGM project construction site, and provided the buses, because there was no location to park at the MGM project site. Also the contractor and it had adopted a “good neighbor” policy to avoid disruptions, such as increased traffic, in the community surrounding the site.
The workers contend that, in Maryland, a “worksite” is a location where an employer exercises control over an employee’s time or requires the employee to report. They assert that under Maryland law, a “worksite” is not limited to a place where an employee is performing a job function or principal activities of employment. Rather, a worksite under Maryland law includes a location where an employer exercises “some control” over an employee, they maintain.
“This was a tremendous victory for Maryland workers. When the boss tells workers to do something, even outside of their regular duties, they are working, and now they will get paid,” said Brian Markovitz, a principal at the Joseph, Greenwald & Laake law firm who represented the workers.
The court concluded that there are genuine disputes of material fact in both cases as to whether the workers were required to report to the parking area and whether in using the parking area the workers were required to be on the employer’s premises or on duty or at a prescribed workplace.
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