Overview: Do employers have to pay employees for time they spend traveling? The answer, as with most things involving Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, is: it depends.
Time an employee spends commuting to work in the morning and returning home in the evening normally does not count as hours worked. But if the employee is required to perform work-related duties, such as picking up some important papers on the way to the office, then the rest of the commute suddenly becomes compensable.
Similar complexities come into play with other forms of travel, including special one-day assignments in another location and overnight travel away from home.
Trends: Technology make it easier than ever for employees to perform work-related duties during their commutes. HR should closely monitor this possibility to ensure commutes do not become compensable working time.
Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect a forthcoming amendment to the meal breaks law.
Updated to reflect working time requirements under the employee work scheduling law, effective July 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect a US Department of Labor (DOL) opinion letter concerning overnight travel.
The US Department of Labor opined about how to ascertain travel time by employees without regular working hours, whether frequent rest breaks required by a "serious health condition" are compensable, and which types of lump-sum payments are "earnings" subject to garnishment limits.
Updated to reflect proposed rules that would expand show-up time / reporting time requirements.
Use this workflow to determine whether the time that a nonexempt employee spends traveling counts as "hours worked" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Updated to reflect expanded protections under the Nevada Pregnant Workers' Fairness Act, effective October 1, 2017.
Updated to reflect information on a Washington Supreme Court ruling clarifying employer liability for meal break violations.
Enhanced with information about the day of rest law.
HR guidance on complying with the FLSA requirements for employee travel time.