Out-of-town travel and the FLSA: Is employee travel time compensable?




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Here’s the scenario:  Your company is holding a training session at your central business office.  All of your employees, including non-exempt, hourly employees, are required to attend the training session.  While some employees work just minutes away from the central business office, others work several hours away.   Are you required to pay employees for the time spent traveling from their workplace to the training session at your central office?

The short answer to this question is “Yes.”   Employees who are required to travel from site to site within a work day are entitled to be paid for that travel time.  Likewise, if any employee is required, on occasion, to make a day trip out of town, that time would generally be treated as a “Special One Day Assignment in Another City.”   The Department of Labor treats time traveling out of town as hours worked, though the employer may subtract the hours that the employee normally spends commuting to and from work.  

What if the employees attending the training are traveling from really far away, and need to come in the night before, or travel in groups to attend the session?

Part of the answer to this question depends on whether the employee is the driver or the passenger.  If an employee is required to drive out of town the night before to attend a training session a substantial distance from home, the employee is entitled to be paid for the time they spend driving to that location.  If the employee is a passenger, a different rule applies:  An employee is only required to be paid if the travel time occurs within “regular working hours.”   So if the travel time overlaps with the employee’s regular workday, and they are traveling as a passenger, you still must pay them for travel time.  However, to the extent the travel time does not overlap with the workday, the employer is not obligated to compensate the employee for the time spent traveling.  Ultimately, it will be your decision as an employer whether to voluntarily pay the passenger for travel – which you may choose to do voluntarily, as you are already obligated to pay the driver.

As with all advice on this blog, it is best to consult a local employment attorney to ensure that your state’s law does not have more restrictive requirements for compensating traveling employees.

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