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Rules of the Road: When Does Travel Time Become Paid Time?

Source | LinkedIn : By Kristi Weierbach

It is alarming to see how many companies have inconsistent travel time policies for their non-exempt employees, or no travel time policy at all. These same companies have varying definitions of what is considered “worked” or “paid” time.  How do you define compensable time in the following scenarios?

Employee who reports to the main company location, and then gets into a company provided vehicle to drive to the work site

  • Employee who drives directly to the job site from his/her home
  • Employee who drives between client locations throughout the normal business day
  • Employee who travels out of town for training, or to attend company sponsored events
  • Employee who travels out of town to visit with clients

Are you On or Off the DOL Clock?

According to the DOL, all hours worked must be paid. Depending on the circumstances the following may be considered hours worked: waiting time, on-call time, rest/meal period, sleeping time, lectures, meetings, training, travel time, home-to-work travel, home-to-work on a special one-day assignment in another city, travel all in a day’s work, and travel away from home community.  An employee must receive compensation any time they are “engaged and waiting” to work. Examples include: driving from the primary location to the work site, driving between work sites, eating lunch while continuing to answer phones, and waiting at the airport to board a plane during standard business hours. Time spent by an employee “waiting to be engaged” is not considered work or paid time, including: traveling to/from home to the main location of business when on-call without any restrictions to go about personal matters as long as the employee can be reached via message, and waiting to board an airplane outside of standard business hours. Knowing the rules surrounding work time helps to determine when travel time becomes paid time.

Time spent away from the main location of the business is considered travel time. The DOL indicated that a typical problem in the Construction Industry is that employers fail to pay employees for travel from the shop (main location of business) to the work-site. Based on my observations, this problem is not limited to the construction industry. Currently, the DOL has not provided guidance on how much an employee has to be paid for travel time, other than at least minimum wage must be paid for hours worked. Keep in mind, that if you pay an employee at two different rates in the same work week (one rate for time spent working on the job vs. time spent traveling), the regular rate of pay (used for calculating overtime) will need to be calculated.

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