Case Brief - Armenta v. Osmose, Inc. (2005)
135 Cal.App.4th 314

Main Issue:
Whether an employer has violated minimum wage if the employer compensated the employee enough during the time spent carrying duties to cover for uncompensated time spent carrying out other duties (traveling).

No. Employer violated minimum wage statute by failing to pay employees for travel time going to remote jobsites on company vehicles and for time spent processing paperwork, even if average of unpaid hours and hours paid at rate above minimum wage. This is because the minimum wage standard affixed to each unpaid hour and the employer may not "average" wages.

Osmose's business includes maintaining standing wood utility poles for major utility companies. Employees were paid hourly wages ranging between $9.08 to $20, depending on whether they were crew members or foremen.

Armenta worked in the field included maintaining utility poles in rural or extremely remote locations with difficult terrain. Osmose provided its crews with a utility truck which carried the tools, chemicals, and equipment needed to perform the work in the field. Typically, Osmose required the foremen to designate places to meet in the morning and the crew was required to travel from there in appellant's vehicle to the job sites. The foremen were responsible for keeping daily records of the work performed in the field, including pole information, production statistics, and hourly timesheets for all crew members.

Employee hours were classified as productive or nonproductive, depending on whether the hours were directly related to maintaining the utility poles in the field. Armenta testified that he was not compensated for a myriad of tasks that primarily fell into the following categories: (1) travel time in company vehicles; (2) time spent loading equipment and supplies into the company vehicle; (3) time spent doing daily and weekly paperwork (foremen only); and (4) time spent in maintaining the company vehicles (foremen only). Osmose testified that time spent performing these tasks was considered nonproductive time.

Facts Applied to Law
Osmose argued that when an employer pays a higher hourly rate, it should be entitled to divide the total number of hours worked into the amount the employee was paid to arrive at an average hourly wage and then determine whether the employee's compensation complied with the minimum wage law. In summation, Osmose urged the California court to adopt the "averaging formula" utilized by federal courts in assessing minimum wage law violations.

The court responded with a review of California labor statutes that revealed a clear legislative intent to protect the minimum wage rights of California employees to a greater extent than federally.

The Court concluded, therefore, that the FLSA model of averaging all hours worked "in any work week" to compute an employer's minimum wage obligation under California law is inappropriate. The minimum wage standard affixes to each hour worked by respondents for which they were not paid. Therefore, Osmose violated California minimum wage by failing or refusing to pay for each hour spent driving and time spent by foremen processing paperwork.

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