Some service technicians whose job it was to repair appliances in customers’ homes brought a class action lawsuit against their employer, Sears, alleging it failed to pay overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA). Sears moved for summary judgment. Prior to 2001, technicians reported to work each day at a centralized location to pick up the company van and perform various other activities in preparation for the day’s service calls, such as planning the service route and loading parts into the van. In 2001, Sears implemented the voluntary Home Dispatch Program (HDP). Under the HDP, technicians did not report to a centralized location to start their work day; instead they report directly to the first customer in the morning and return home from the last customer at the end of the day, thus the technicians kept the company van at their homes overnight. Chambers v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., CIV.A.H-08-3676, 2010 WL 6785485 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 30, 2010).
Sears paid for all of the commuting expenses related to the van, including gas, maintenance, and insurance. However, technicians participating in the HDP were not paid for the first thirty-five minutes of their morning and evening commutes, that is, they were not paid for the first thirty-five minutes of the travel to the location of the first customer of the day, nor for the first thirty-five minutes of the trip to the technician’s home from the last service call of the day. The technicians were compensated for time spent commuting from the first and last service calls in excess of thirty-five minutes, and are compensated for all trips to service calls in between the first and last calls of the day. Id. Thus, assuming that a technician’s travel to the first assignment of the day did not exceed thirty-five minutes, the technician’s compensable work day begins when he arrived at the first customer’s location. Similarly, assuming that the commute from the last stop of the day did not exceed thirty-five minutes, the technicians’ compensable work day ended when he finished his activities at the last customer’s location.
The technicians that brought this suit participated in the HDP, and claimed that their morning and evening commutes and other “off-the-clock activities” should have been paid for under the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA), which requires that employers pay employees the federal minimum wage. Id. The technicians’ also couple this claim with a prayer for relief under the Texas Payday Law for payment of past wages due. However, the TMWA expressly provides that its provisions “do not apply to a person covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.” Id. Consequently, the technicians argued that if the court finds that the disputed activities in this case “are not covered by the FLSA,” then the TMWA must apply.
Subsequently, the technicians’ contention was rejected by the district court. It found that there was no dispute that their employment with Sears was covered by the FLSA. The court held that if the technicians’ interpretation of the TMWA was correct, an absurd result would occur- “A plaintiff would automatically be entitled to compensation under the TMWA for any activity that is not compensable under the FLSA.” Id. Thus, the TMWA did not apply to the technicians’ employment with Sears, and Sears was entitled to summary judgment.