September 06, 2022

Maryland Court of Appeals Holds State Law Wage Claims Despite Federal Wage Law

On July 13, 2022, Maryland’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, held that state wage law claims for certain travel pay survive summary judgment despite the fact that such payments are not required under the federal Portal-To-Portal Act (PPA or the Act). The Court of Appeals interprets Maryland law as requiring wage payments for time spent waiting and traveling to a worksite if the waiting site is considered a prescribed workplace.

Maryland employers should carefully review any requirements to take employer-provided transportation to a jobsite. Outside of Maryland — employers, particularly construction contractors — should keep an eye on other state courts hearing comparable cases and adopting similar reasoning requiring employers to compensate employees for employer-provided transportation.

The federal PPA excludes certain activities including traveling to and from a jobsite from the definition of compensable work. Specifically, any activities that occur prior to or after the “principal activity” the employee was hired to perform such as “walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance” are not compensable. While Maryland wage law does not expressly require compensation for travel time to and from a jobsite, the relevant statutes and corresponding regulations define “hours of work” as the time where a worker is “required by the employer to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace.”

In reviewing the statutory text and legislative history, the Maryland Court of Appeals noted that the PPA does not define “work” instead permitting individual states to define the term. The PPA does however impose limitations on what time is compensable. According to the court, Maryland never expressly incorporated or adopted the PPA in its state wage and hour statutes nor in the corresponding regulations. Thus, the definition of “work” under Maryland’s wage and hours statues and regulations is not limited by the PPA’s exclusions to compensable time.

The two cases at issue involved a general contractor that required its workers to report to a parking area where the workers would then be bussed to the jobsite. The court held that since Maryland law was not subject to the PPA’s limitations on compensable work time, it was a question of fact as to whether reporting to a parking area to be bussed to a jobsite fell within the definition of “work” in the Maryland wage and hour statutes and regulations. Accordingly, the court remanded the case for further review. Should the trial court determine such activities fell within the definition of “work,” the contractors could be liable for significant penalties and damages as the transportation to and from the jobsite took approximately two hours per day.

Employers need to monitor these cases as each is reassessed by the Maryland trial courts. Should a trial court deem travel time to fall within the definition of “work,” many employers who previously complied with federal law, may be liable for damages under Maryland state law. Employers outside of Maryland should also keep an eye on this case and other state courts hearing similar cases. The Maryland Court of Appeal’s reasoning that “work” was reserved for states to define could open the door for other states to find that travel time is compensable under state wage and hour laws. If you have any questions about how the Maryland Court of Appeal’s decision may affect your business, please contact an attorney in Faegre Drinker’s labor and employment group.

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