Getting Paid for Long Distance Travel

With the recent landmark case in California regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as it applies to training and more in the pipeline regarding what non-exempt employees are being required to pay for or attend, it is important for employers to recheck what they think they know about compensation. The costs for not knowing are high. Of the many complaints we receive about employers, questions about the various forms of ‘travel time’ are common.

Do Employees Need to be Compensated for Travel Time?

Commuting

Commuting to and from a job site is not something an employer needs to compensate non-exempt employees for. Employees are always charged with paying their own expenses to and from their work site. Should he or she be asked to drive or visit a different location, provided that it is in the same area or region he will not be given compensation. If an employee takes a job that has no particular work site or multiple, again, he or she is responsible for their own commuting costs.

Travel during work hours

If an employee is asked to drive to another location during the day that is not his or her normal work site this is paid as “time worked”. This type of travel can be paid as a regular or even overtime wage depending upon the circumstances for that travel.

Weekend travel or long distance trips by car

Here is one that many employees will grumble about: long-distance travel. The guidance here really doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is the law. If you are traveling outside of your 9-5 work hours you will not be paid for travel. If, however, you travel during 9-5 hours you get paid as time worked (or overtime depending upon circumstances). Where this becomes very difficult for people to both believe and understand is that this law includes weekends. If you travel on a Saturday or Sunday between 9-5 you will be paid. If you travel on those days between 1:00 and 10:00 you will be paid for those four hours between 1:00 and 5:00. There is one more rule: If you use public transportation that is not considered working.

Overnight travel

Another raw area for employment law is the subject of overnight travel. Employees certainly see the time away from home as work, but according to the law employees can only be paid for those hours between 9 and 5 that they perform work (or overtime accordingly). To highlight this in an example scenario: even if you have been assigned to a remote town with no HBO, no restaurant aside from McDonalds, and absolutely nothing to do with your pregnant spouse at home angry at you—you still only get paid for the hours worked, unless your contract stipulates per diem.

This is an area of law that really makes many people unhappy to read about because it doesn’t always make sense. Unfortunately this is the law and how your travel will be applied in most scenarios. If you have a question about this or think that your case has special circumstances, please use our contact form here and we will review your issue.