In a decision officially released today, the Connecticut Supreme Court (Sarrazin v. Coastal, Inc.) has concluded that a plumbing foreman who carried his tools to and from work was not entitled to be compensated for his commuting time.
That’s about the only simple thing about the decision for employers.
The case addresses complicated and head-spinning issues such as pre-emption, interpretations of administrative regulations, and something called the Portal-to-Portal Act. Arguably, it took the court over a year (!) to issue a written decision on it after argument way back in April 2013 because the issues are so dense.
(So much for my prediction of a decision on the case last year.)
A case that had the potential to be a blockbuster ends up being a bit of a snoozer for employers.
Don’t get me wrong — lawyers will love this case. Dan Klau, in his delightful Appelingly Brief blog on, well, appellate law, highlights a technical issue with the decision and calls out this blog to respond which I will do in a followup post.
But for employers, it’s hard to imagine you’ll get too excited about it.
That said, if you have relied upon page 38 of the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Guide to Wage & Workplace Laws (you don’t use it for bedside reading?), you may not want to believe everything in its description on “Travel Time”. The Connecticut Supreme Court concludes that the CTDOL’s interpretation in this section should be rejected because it ignores additional legislative history.
The department’s interpretation of § 31-60-10 of the regulations was not promulgated pursuant to any formal rule-making procedures or articulated pursuant to any adjudicatory procedures, has not been time-tested or subject to judicial review in this state.
So, for now, employers in Connecticut can continue to follow federal law in travel time compensation and should beware of reading the CTDOL’s Guide too literally.