In this economy, we continue to see lay-offs and slow growth in hiring.  As a result, more employees are being asked to take on additional responsibilities and assignments.  These circumstances, coupled with the fact that some employers are properly re-classifying certain jobs as non-exempt, have led to an increase in work-related travel for non-exempt employees.  For some employers, requiring non-exempt employees to travel is new territory.  As a result, I thought it would be beneficial to provide some general guidance on hours worked for travel time purposes.  The following general rules apply to non-exempt employees:

 General Rules Applicable to All Travel Time

  • Ordinary commuting time from home to work and work to home is not considered hours worked unless the employee is required to perform work or tasks for the employer during the commute.
  • Work performed while traveling, regardless of when the travel occurs, is considered hours worked.
  • Even if the employee is required to travel overnight for the employer, sleep time is never counted as hours worked.

 Same Day, In-Town Travel

  • If an employee spends time traveling as part of their principal work activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, all time spent traveling during the employee’s normal workday is considered hours worked, except the employee’s commute to and from work. 
  • Time spent commuting from home to an alternate work location within reasonable proximity to the office is not considered hours worked.  However, if the alternate work location is not within reasonable proximity to the employee’s home and the associated travel requires additional time, effort, or cost, the travel time may be considered hours worked. 

Special One Day Assignment in Another City

  • This scenario arises when 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.
  • All time spent by an employee traveling to and from the other city is considered hours worked, whether or not the travel occurs during the employee’s normal work hours.
  • The employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.

Overnight Travel

  • Generally speaking, travel time that occurs during an employee’s normal work hours— even if such travel occurs outside of the regular work week (e.g., Saturday and Sunday) — is considered hours worked.
  • Time spent as a passenger of an airplane, train, boat, bus or automobile outside of regular working hours will not be considered hours worked.
  • Travel time spent by an employee driving a vehicle, regardless of whether the travel takes place within normal work hours, counts as hours worked.
  • Time spent traveling from home to the airport will not count as hours worked.

Obviously, these rules are general and specific facts may lend to different results.   Like any wage and hour issue left unchecked, failure to properly pay travel time may lead to serious monetary damages down the road. Even if you are familiar with these rules, it may be worth a few minutes of your time to confirm your travel time policy with an experienced employment attorney.