Iowa High Court: Pay State Troopers for Commuting

November 11, 2004 ( - Current and former Iowa state troopers chalked up another victory in their battle for back pay as the state's high court ruled that the troopers should be paid for their time commuting between home and work.

>Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, writing for the court, said a lower court judge was wrong in ruling that the commuting time was not compensatable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court sent the matter back to the lower court to determine the amount of damages the troopers were due.

>Pamela Walker, a plaintiffs’ attorney, told that the ruling will mean approximately $500,000 in back wages and another $500,000 in liquidated damages for the 147 Iowa Department of Public Safety sergeants who sued. That is in addition to $5.5 million already awarded to the officers in connection with allegations of other state overtime pay violations.

>According to Wiggins’ decision, the lower court judge had initially ruled that the state didn’t have to pay the troopers for their commuting time except for sergeants assigned to active road duty on a particular day, but that meal times were eligible for compensation because the time was spent predominately for the benefit of the employer.”

>For example, the state required the officers to stay in uniform, remain in radio contact and respond to calls for help. The high court upheld the portion of the lower court ruling on compensating the troopers for their meal times. “Using a practical approach based on the realities of the present case, a reasonable mind would accept the evidence as adequate that the peace officers’ meal time was predominately for the benefit of the state,” Wiggins wrote in the ruling.

>The ruling is at .

>More information about the FLSA from the US Department of Labor is at .