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Jean   Murray

When Employee Travel Time Equals Work Time

By December 9, 2009

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When do you count employee travel as time worked?  Of course, it depends on the situation. A recent question from a reader about my Overtime post last week also prompted a question about travel. In general, travel during regular work hours or time spent by an employee in traveling as part of his or her "principal activity" must be paid.  Travel which is "incidental"  is not paid.  The DOL also discusses employees who drive employer-provided vehicles:

Time spent in home-to-work travel by an employee in an employer-provided vehicle, or in activities performed by an employee that are incidental to the use of the vehicle for commuting, generally is not "hours worked" and, therefore, does not have to be paid.

Non-exempt (Hourly) Employees Only
Paying for travel time for employees is only relevant for non-exempt employees; that is, those employees who are eligible for overtime.  Exempt employees (managers and professionals) do not receive pay for travel time, since it is part of their jobs.

Let's look at some examples:

Travel Examples - Paid or Not Paid?

  • An employee drives to work from his home every day.  You ask him to stop one day and pick up bagels for the staff meeting.  Not Paid. Time commuting to work is never paid time; the time to stop for the bagels is "incidental" to the commuting, and is not part of the employee's job.
  • You ask an employee to get bagels for the office meeting.  If the employee makes this trip during normal work hours, he or she should be paid. It's not clear if the employee should be paid for this time outside of work hours, but it makes sense to me that if you ask an employee to do something for you after work hours, this too should be paid.
  • A licensed practical nurse (LPN) sees patientsat several facilities for her employer.  Her drive time between those facilities is time worked, because it is part of her principal activity.

Questions? If you have an employee pay situation you would like to discuss, involving travel time or other related issue, post a question in the Forum.

One Final Note: Check with your state labor department to see if there are any rules which might supersede the federal rules.

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