Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, there are circumstances where employers must pay non-exempt employees for travel time.
Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is compensable time when it cuts across the employee’s workday. The rationale is that the employee is simply substituting travel for other duties. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during the corresponding hours on non-working days.
This means that if an employee regularly works from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday, the travel time during these hours is worktime on Saturday and Sunday as well as on the other days. Regular meal period time is not counted as hours worked.
A few points for employers to keep in mind:
- A separate rule applies to employees whose working hours vary from day to day or week to week.
- Employers must remain mindful of state travel time laws, which may, depending on the state, require payment for certain travel time where the FLSA does not.
- Employers must pay employees for any time an employee is performing work. This includes time spent working during travel as a passenger that would otherwise be non-compensable, such as commute time. However, the time spent working on the commute must be more than a de minimis amount in order to be compensable. A de minimis amount is an insubstantial or insignificant period of time beyond scheduling working hours, which cannot as a practical administrative matter be precisely recorded for payroll purposes.