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What Does the FLSA Say About Travel Time?

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 12/17/2010

Many employees claiming payment for travel time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is on the rise, and employers usually face a dilemma on whether to entertain such claims. Read on to find out about FLSA travel time stipulations.

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    Daily Commute

    FLSA Travel Time The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not consider the time spent by employees in their daily commute to work as part of working hours and does not require the employer to pay for the time employees spend commuting to work. This holds true even if the commute is to or from a different work place than normal, or if the commute takes longer than usual.

    If the employee, however, undertakes work or performs any work related task when commuting, such as picking up supplies, writing a project report, and making or receiving official calls, then FLSA recognizes the time as compensable work hours, eligible for payment by the employer.

    In the case law Smith v. Aztec Well Servicing Co., 462 F.3d 1274 (10th Cir. 2006), the court considered the time spend by Aztec Well Servicing Company employees traveling to and from work on drilling rigs in remote locations as not compensable. Even though the company transported the employees in a vehicle under the control and supervision of an Aztec employee, the employees did not spend majority of the commute time in actual work, and were free to sleep, eat, read, or do anything they pleased during the commute.

    In another case law Singh v. New York City, 524 F.3d 361 (2d Cir. 2008), the court ruled that New York City fire alarm inspectors were not entitled to compensable hours when traveling to and from their first and last inspection locations around the City. Although the inspectors carried large and heavy files between their homes and the inspection location, the employer was not the “primary beneficiary" of such travel time.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Wouter Kiel

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    Travel During Work

    FLSA travel time regulations stipulate that "all in a day's work" travel, or employee travel time during the course of work duties, such as visiting remote work locations, making purchases, attending meetings, seminars or social events, visiting the bank, and all other travel for work related purposes counts as "work time" that require payment. If the employee proceeds directly to an inspection site from the house, or returns to the house directly from an inspection site or remote location, then such time counts as daily commute and is not compensable.

    Time spent traveling out-of-town and returning in the same day for any work related purpose counts as hours worked, regardless of whether such travel takes place within the employee’s normal work hours or otherwise, and regardless of the employee’s mode of conveyance. When an employee prefers his or her own vehicle over the mode of travel authorized by the company, the estimated time spent on travel using the authorized mode counts as compensable work hours.

    Regular meal periods, irrespective of whether one travels to eat meals, however, does count as work hours eligible for payment.

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    Overnight Travel

    The Fair Labor Standards Act travel time rules consider time spend traveling long distance or overnight for work related purpose as compensable work hours under certain conditions. Such travel time becomes compensable work hours when it falls within the employee’s normal working hours, regardless of whether it happens to be a regular working day or a holiday. When such hours extend beyond the normal work hours, employees become eligible for overtime.

    The time spent waiting for the earliest train or flight to the destination is included in the compensable work hours, but the commute to and from the airport or railway station from home does not count as compensable work hours.

    When the travel entails two or more time zones, the time zone of the point of departure determines whether the travel falls within normal work hours.

    When the employer sends the employee to a distant location for a period extending more than one day and the employee instead of using the accommodation facility provided by the employer opts to commute daily, then such intermediate commuting time does not count as compensable work hours.

    FLSA travel time stipulations have cleared much of the gray areas concerning payment for the time covered employees spend traveling.

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    References

    1. United States Department of Labor. “Travel Time." http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/traveltime.htm. retrieved 12 December 2010.
    2. Del Mar College. “Travel: Determining Compensable Time for non-exempt employees." http://www.delmar.edu/hres/presentations/Travelfactsheet.pdf. Retrieved 12 December 2010
    3. Hickox, Stacy, A. "Compensability of Employee Time under the Fair Labor Standards Act." http://hrlr.msu.edu/hr_executive_education/hrlr/documents/calendarAugust.pdf. Retrieved 12 December 2010.