Driver Rights in California: If You Can't Go Home, You Should be Getting Paid | ASM Lawyers
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Driver Rights in California: If You Can’t Go Home, You Should be Getting Paid

Many delivery drivers and truck drivers are not being paid fairly. Here in the state of California, labor laws are extremely specific about when an employee should be getting paid and what time constitutes as on-work hours. However, each industry tries to define its worker’s hours in the most economically efficient (for the employer) way of doing things. 

In retail, employers try to use on-call and on-demand scheduling to keep workers on the hook while minimizing hours. In hospitality, employers often argue that tip-rate wages are due when the tip income is not sufficient. And for delivery and truck drivers, often employers try to enforce constant driving and then not pay for work time that isn’t spent on the road. This is not a fair way to calculate wages and often, it is illegal. Particularly in California where paid work-time is so clearly defined.

Getting Paid to Drive

The standard approach to paying drivers is paying them for time on the road. This sounds so simple to start with, until you consider the fact that it excludes all other aspects of the work. Truckers, for example, are paid by the mile which often excludes time they lose getting gas, stuck in traffic, or completing a delivery as the truck is unloaded or loaded back up again. Sound familiar?

Delivery drivers face a similar plight, with delivery businesses often looking for ways to deny their drivers pay for time they spend not on the road. But what about the time you spend preparing your vehicle each day, loading it with packages, or delivering those packages at the destination? Maybe you haul the boxes or maybe you’re just required to wait while another team handles the loading because the company has deemed it faster.  This is called detention time, the time that you are detained and not driving.

According to the drive-time-only pay policies, you’re not ‘working’ during this time and therefore don’t need to be paid. But not according to California labor laws. 

California On-Call Labor Laws

Delivery drivers certainly aren’t the first (and won’t be the last) to be subject to nit-picking ‘on the job’ pay policies. So it’s no surprise that California’s comprehensive labor laws already have a few terms that cover your situation. It’s often referred to on-call, callback, or standby time. It goes like this: An employer can hire someone to stand around waiting all day. Doormen aren’t paid by the door opening, they’re paid by the hour to stand by the door. And he must be paid, by law, for scheduled time spent by that door.

To the same extent, California holds that employees who are held on-call, to the point where they cannot take other jobs or schedule personal tasks while waiting to be called to work, are officially working and are owed hourly wages. They are being paid to wait. There are currently several active lawsuits addressing employers who have kept their staff on the line, unable to do other work, while officially claiming that they were not working and therefore have no right to pay. California sides with the on-call workers.

So what do you call being asked to sit in or stand by your truck while it is loaded? Or worse, not being paid while doing your own truck loading? A violation of California labor laws, that is what.

If You Can’t Go Home or Grab Lunch: Get Paid

Drivers of California, it is illegal for your employer to refuse to pay you for time that you’re not behind the wheel if your time is not your own. If you can’t head home or show up late while the truck is loaded, if you can’t grab lunch while your delivery recipients grab their own packages, then you are legally on the job. If your use of time is still dictated by your employer, you are on the job. And you deserve to be paid, even if your employer’s business model includes paying you to wait.

Being paid to wait is not against the law. Not being paid for time that is not your own is against the law. Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, our team is dedicated to defending the rights of workers in every industry against the facile pay-refusal of today’s employers. Whether you are being refused pay for load-up time or are being denied your rightful rest and meal breaks, contact us today. We can help.