Former employee seeks back wages from travel time

Posted: April 19, 2013

An occupational therapist says his former employer owes tens of thousands of dollars in back wages plus other damages because company officials did not pay him for the time he spent traveling between clients.

In a suit moved to federal court in Camden last week, Omar Graham of Sicklerville says his supervisor at SunDance Rehabilitation Services Inc. deleted his travel time from his time records "to prevent [him] from being paid for travel time and overtime."

"We are looking into the allegations," said Jeanne Moore, a company spokeswoman. "We will, consistent with our practice in any employee claim, ensure that this employee is paid fully and fairly for all time worked. Beyond that, it is not our practice to comment on pending litigation."

Graham, the suit says, would begin his day at a SunDance-staffed facility in Blackwood before going on the road to provide occupational therapy at one or two other New Jersey locations.

Graham, who started working for SunDance in November 2006, says in the suit that the company owes him $26,072 from between 2008 and November, when he stopped working there.

The lawsuit does not say why he started calculating his losses in 2008 and why he stopped working for the company in November. The suit was initially filed in Superior Court in Camden in February.

Under federal law, companies must pay employees for travel time between assignments, said Philip L. Harvey, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law-Camden. "On the other hand, there are possible facts that might support the employer's position," Harvey said. "For example, if the employee had no fixed workday but was expected to report to various sites on an as-needed basis at ... widely dispersed times, with his time being his own between such visits."

Graham said the idea that companies must pay for travel time but not commuting time is "well settled" and familiar to most human resources professionals. But, he said, "few employees complain while they are employed - for fear of losing their jobs."

In December, SunDance, based in California, was acquired by Genesis Health L.L.C. Based in Kennett Square, Genesis operates 400 skilled and assisted living centers in 28 states, and supplies rehabilitation therapies to 1,500 health-care providers in 46 states.


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, 215-854-2769, or on Twitter @JaneVonBergen.

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