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When Must I Pay Employees for Travel Time?


Question: When Must I Pay Employees for Travel Time?

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" and commuting time is not paid.

Travel in a Company Car
The Department of Labor (DOL) 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.

Hourly Employees Only
Pay to employees for travel time is only applicable to non-exempt (hourly) employees, not to exempt (professional or managerial) employees. Exempt employees are paid for their expertise by the job, not by the hour.

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. This driving time is 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.
  • An LPN (licensed professional nurse) works for a nursing facility and travels between the two locations of this facility as directed, providing care for patients at both locations. Her daily travel time must be included in her pay,

    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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