Dustin Paschal here with this week’s Simon Paschal Says. Today I want to talk about travel time and whether or not that travel time is compensable, whether or not it has to be paid.
Obviously, if you’ve got an exempt employee, that’s not really an issue or something you have to worry about. So what we’re focused on here are non-exempt employees, those employees that are eligible for overtime, those employees whose time you track. So the question becomes, when do I have to pay those employees as an employer for travel time?
So the first question is to and from work, that’s an easy one. The time to and from work or to and from the employee’s regular work location is not compensable. An employer does not have to pay for that time. That’s just the employee’s regular commute.
Now, if the employee has a special job assignment at a different location, say on just a random day, then the time to and from that employee’s home to that special job site and then back home that is compensable. But you can offset that time with the time that the employee would normally spend in their regular commute. So that’s the commuting to a special job site. Obviously any driving within the work day, if the employee is required to drive to make deliveries or drive to pick something up or anything like that, that’s going to be compensable time that must be paid.
The one, kind of is the one that’s most confusing to people or that comes up most often is overnight travel. When do I have to pay a non-exempt employee for overnight travel? So anything that requires the employee to stay away from their home overnight is travel away from home. And the way that works is that the employee’s time traveling, if it’s during their normal working hours, that must be compensated, and that’s regardless if they travel on a work day or a non-work day. If it’s in their normal working hours, it has to be compensated.
So then the question becomes what about outside of their normal working hours? Well that the Department of Labor basically says if they are a passenger on a boat or a train or a plane or a car or something like that, they don’t have to be compensated if they’re passenger outside of their normal working hours.
Now if they are driving and it’s a requirement of the employer, they do have to be compensated whether or not they’re driving in this travel away from either during their working hours or outside of their working hours. Now an exception there is if the employer gives them the option to use public transportation and the employee prefers to use his or her car and drive, then the employer need not pay for the employee’s time outside of their normal working hours. The employer would still have to pay for their time during their normal working hours.
Now, one final point on all of that. Although the employer does not have to pay for travel away from home outside of the normal working hours of the employee if the employee is a passenger. If the employee is performing work, responding to emails, making phone calls, reviewing paperwork, whatever it is, if the employee is working, that time must be compensated. That’s just your default pay for hours worked by the employee.
So there’s your rules for travel time. They can sometimes be confusing. Make sure you check those. The Department of Labor has some good resources on how to determine when time must be paid for travel for non-exempt employees or contact your friendly employment lawyer. I’m Dustin Paschal for Simon Paschal Says.