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 the forthcoming Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance.
Updated to include information on a California Court of Appeal ruling concerning on-duty meal breaks.
Updated to reflect requirements regarding breastfeeding breaks, effective July 28, 2019.
Updated to reflect amendments to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act regarding breastfeeding breaks, effective June 27, 2019.
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Updated to reflect a US Department of Labor (DOL) opinion letter concerning civic or charitable work.
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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.
HR guidance on complying with the FLSA requirements for employee travel time.