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When Travel Time Counts As Paid Time

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Oct 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

The principles applied when determining whether or not time spent traveling is considered “hours worked” depend upon the kind of travel involved.

Daily Commute

Typical employment requires an employee to commute from home to work, and back home at the end of the workday. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) recognize that the typical morning and evening commute, referred to in the regulations as “home-to-work travel”, is not compensable as work time. This is so even if the job regularly requires travel to different job sites rather than a single location.

Travel While Working

On the other hand, once a non-exempt employee arrives at an assigned workplace, travel within the workday is considered work activity and must be compensated. For example, if an employee is assigned to stop on the way to his/her workplace to pick up supplies, travel from the designated place to the usual workplace is paid time, as is travel to an assigned stop on the way home.

DOL regulations also address atypical circumstances when an employee is required to undertake travel beyond the scope of the daily commute, and describe when such travel time must be paid time.

Single Day Off-Site Assignment

The regulations do not regard an employee who regularly works at a fixed location but who is assigned to spend the day at a more distant place as engaged in ordinary home-to-work travel. Instead, the travel is considered work time and therefore paid time, except that the portion of the travel which is the equivalent of the regular commute need not be compensated. The rule is the same whether the extra travel is by car or by public transportation.

For example, an employee who works in San Francisco, with regular working hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is given a special assignment in Sacramento. He or she is instructed to leave San Francisco at 8 a.m. He or she arrives in Sacramento at 12 noon, ready for work. The special assignment is completed at 3 p.m., and the employee arrives back in San Francisco at 7 p.m. Such travel cannot be regarded as ordinary home-to-work travel. It was performed for the employer's benefit and at the employer's special request to meet the special needs of the company and the assignment. This type of travel would qualify as a necessary part of the principal activity, which the employee was hired to perform on this particular workday.

However, all the time involved, need not be considered as hours worked. The travel between your employee's home and the airport or other public transportation terminal is normal home-to-work travel and is not hours worked. The balance of the time between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. is hours worked, with the exception of meal periods.

Emergency Calls

Emergency calls. If an employee who has gone home after completing his day's work is subsequently called out at night to travel to a customer's location to perform emergency work, all travel time is paid time.

Overnight Travel

Overnight travel is work time when it includes the work day, since travel is in effect a job duty. Under the wage-hour regulations, travel time during regular working hours is paid time, both on weekdays and on the weekend. For example, an employee who regularly works a 9:00 am to 5:00 pm schedule and who travels to the East Coast on Sunday to be available for a business meeting on Monday must be paid for the travel time that occurs during his regular work schedule. If he takes a 3:00 pm flight which arrives at 7:00 pm, he should be paid for two hours of travel time.

If you are living in California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, or San Diego) and you are not being paid adequately for the travel incurred in performing your job duties, contact Kingsley & Kingsley to speak with one of our experienced labor lawyers.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

In practice since 1996, the firm's lawyer and co-founder, Eric B. Kingsley, has litigated complex cases and written numerous appeals in state and federal courts on behalf of the California law firm Kingsley & Kingsley, including More than 150 collective actions. Mr. Kingsley focuses his practice ...


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