When Is “Travel Time” Compensable Under Federal Overtime Law?

A frequent question in overtime cases is whether an employee’s “travel time” counts as “working time” for purposes of determining how many hours in a given week an employee has worked.  Travel time is sometimes compensable, but maybe not to the extent that some believe it is.  Travel time issues can be broken into three common categories.

First, the time spent “commuting,” or driving from home to the worksite and back again, is almost never compensable.  A 1996 federal law rendered it almost impossible to argue that an employee should be paid for basic commuting time.  Now, if the employee’s actually working for the employer while commuting (for example, on a cell phone or as a passenger in the vehicle, or maybe even driving a company work vehicle) that may change things and make the commuting time compensable.  But forget about trying to bill your employer for the time you spend just fighting traffic back and forth on I-235.  You don’t ever get paid for that.

Second, time spent by an employee in travel as part of the employee’s principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked.  If an employee’s required to report at a meeting place to receive instructions or to perform other work there, or to pick up and to carry tools, the travel from the designated place to the work place is part of the day’s work, and must be counted as hours worked regardless of contract, custom, or practice.

A frequent example of this is people in an occupation with lots of home or offsite office visits (service and maintenance calls, painting, landscaping, on-site computer or technology work, deliveries, etc.)  These types of employees may start their day at a central location (say, the home office of an HVAC company).  The employee may switch to a company van or truck and perhaps pick up tools or receive initial job assignments.  Then the employee hits the road and moves from one house or business to the other throughout the day.  All of that drive time, including the time from the home office to the first job assignment and the time from the last job assignment back to the office is compensable working time.

A third common area of travel time allegations concerns travel away from an employee’s home community.  Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home.  Normally, only an employee’s actual travel time is counted as extra working time on overnight trips, and only if the employee’s traveling during normal working hours (including Saturday and Sunday, even if the employee normally doesn’t work weekends, as long as the weekend travel time occurs during the time period that the employee would usually be working on a weekday).

Overtime cases require legal analysis of federal statutes, U.S. Department of Labor regulations, and court decisions.  I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.

 

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