According to the United States Department of Labor, time spent traveling during normal work hours is considered “travel time” and should be paid. “Travel time” can include both local trips and travel that is away from home.
Is Commuting Time Also Paid by Employers?
No. In general, any time spent commuting (traveling) to and from work, or incidental to commuting to work, are not compensable. Instead, it is considered personal time, not business time. Further, pursuant to the Department of Labor, employees who drive employer-provided vehicles consider time spent in home-to-work travel by an employee in an employer-provided vehicle personal time that should not be paid by the employer.
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Who Qualifies for Travel Time?
Both exempt and non-exempt employees can be compensated for travel time if it is performed within regularly scheduled administrative workweek, or even scheduled overtime. Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime, whereas non-exempt employees are hourly and are eligible for overtime pay. It is also compensable for exempt and non-exempt employees in the following situations:
- The employee is performing work while traveling (ie. as a chauffeur);
- Is incident to work performed while traveling;
- Is carried out under such arduous and unusual conditions that the travel is inseparable from work; or
- Results from an event which could not be scheduled or controlled administratively, including travel by an employee to such an event and the employee’s return from such an event to his or her official duty station.
For non-exempt employees, travel that meets the overtime standard can also include:
- Travel as a passenger on an overnight assignment during hours on non-workdays which correspond to regular working hours; and
- One-day travel as a passenger to and from a temporary duty station.
What Kind of Travel is Compensated?
Travel time is discussed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 29, Sections 785.33-785.41. The CFR divides travel time into three basic types:
- Commute Time: Time spent traveling from work to home and from home to work is not part of “hours worked.” CFR calls this a “normal incident of employment.” However, if an employee is called back out to work after having returned home in the case of an emergency, travel time is included in "hours worked." The time spent traveling from home to a special one-day site is also included, minus the typical commute time.
- Time Traveling between Worksites: Time spent going between worksites all in one day is included in “hours worked.” If the employee works late and returns to her work at 9pm, all of this transport time is included. However, if the employee goes directly home from the other worksite, the time traveling between the other worksite and home is viewed as a commute and does not count.
- Travel Away from Home Community: If the employee is traveling away from home, the time spent traveling within usual working hours will be included in “hours worked.” However, time spent traveling outside of working hours will not. Sleep and meal time will also not constitute “hours worked” while away from home.
Should I Seek Legal Counsel to Help Me Obtain Compensation for Travel Time?
If your travel time for work qualifies as being part of your "hours worked" according to the Code of Federal Regulations, then your employer is obligated to compensate you for that travel. If your employer refuses to do so, then an employment lawyer can help you assert your right to those unpaid wages. An employment attorney will also be able to assist you if you are not being paid for other travel time that your employer had promised to pay you for.