Ask an HR Expert: Travel Time Compensation for ‘Non-Exempt’ Employees


Question:  How should I handle travel time compensation for my ‘non-exempt’ employees?

Regulations issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) govern whether time spent on travel is working time and therefore must be compensated. Texas employers must abide by these federal regulations.  In addition, Colorado law provides that all travel time spent at the control and direction of the employer, excluding normal home to work travel, is compensable work time. Travel time that is work time is subject to both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

As for “training,” Colorado wage and hour laws do not address when an employer must count time spent by employees at meetings, lectures, and training as hours worked. The FLSA regulations, specifically 29 C.F.R. §785.39, sets forth the standards on this issue.

Under the FLSA, attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely:

  • The training is outside normal hours.
  • The training is voluntary.
  • The training is not job-related
  • No work is performed during the training time.

So, unless the employee training meets all of the criteria above, attendance is counted as working time and must be paid.

As for travel time pay, the principles which apply in determining whether time spent in travel is compensable time depends upon the kind of travel involved. If the training is compensable, then the travel time could be compensable as well, depending on the factors below:

1) Home to work in the ordinary situation: An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his/her home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home to work travel, which is not work time.

2) Home to work on a special one-day assignment in another city: An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.

3) Travel that’s all in the day’s work: Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.

4) Travel away from the home community (overnight travel): Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is designated as “travel away from home” by the Wage and Hour Division regulations (29 CFR 785.39). Travel time associated with overnight stays is generally considered compensable work time when the business travel as a passenger cuts across the nonexempt employee’s normal work hours, regardless of what day of the week the travel takes place. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days. The Wage and Hour Division, however, does not consider time spent traveling away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on a plane, train, boat, or bus as paid work time.

For example, if an employee regularly works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, the travel time during these hours is work time on Saturday and Sunday as well as on the other days. Regular meal period time is not counted as work time. For example, if an employee who normally works 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday is a passenger on a plane departing for San Diego at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, his time spent traveling is work time because it cuts across his normal working hours. It does not matter that Saturday is not a normal workday. However, if the plane departed at 6 p.m. instead, his travel time would not be counted as paid work time because he would be traveling outside of normal working hours.

If the employee is traveling to San Diego for the purpose of training and is staying overnight. Thus, under the FLSA, if the employee’s travel cuts across his or her regular working hours, the travel time is counted as work time and must be paid. However, if the travel occurs outside regular work hours and the employee is a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or car, the travel time is not considered work time and need not be paid.

 

– Miranda Wooten

For assistance with related subjects or other HR related inquiries, feel free to contact an eESI HR Business Partner at hr@eESIpeo.com for a complimentary ‘Ask the Expert’ inquiry.

 


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