According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), time spent during regular work hours is compensable work time, including time spent traveling. However, many employers may not know when to consider when or how to pay employees for travel time.
Under federal jurisdiction, travel time may be hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if travel is directed by the employer or cuts across a normal workday. Under the FLSA, ordinary commuting time from home to the place of work and back home again does not qualify as “time worked.”
FLSA Travel Time Rules
There are different types of travel time under the FLSA. Commuting or “home to work travel” refers to the time an employee spends traveling from their home to their place of work. In general, commuting to and from work is non-compensable, even if the employee uses a company car. This is the case even if the employee does not have a regular worksite and travels to different worksites each day. The travel time rules also don’t change when the company relocates, resulting in a longer commute for the employee.
However, once the employee arrives at work, and their regular day begins, any travel that takes place during the day qualifies as compensable. If the employee must travel on an overnight trip, referred to as “travel away from home community,” and the timing of the travel occurs during their regular work hours, the travel then counts as “time worked.”
An example of compensable travel time would be if the employee were given a task in another city for the day, such as attending a conference. In a case where the employee is “commuting on special assignment,” the employee must be paid for the additional travel time because the special assignment requires travel beyond the regular commute of a fixed location.
Another example of compensable travel time would be an employee who must travel to multiple worksites throughout the day. This is because the travel time is part of their job’s principal activities and considered “all in a day’s work.” And if their job is the type that means they can be called even after completing a day’s work to report to an emergency, travel time must also be paid.
Wage and Hour Rules in New York
Wage and hour rules vary from state to state; therefore, travel time laws also vary by state, and in New York, state laws apply. In New York, the minimum wage must be paid for the time the employee works, including the time spent in traveling as long as the traveling is part of the duties of the employee. The minimum wage shall only be paid if the employee is permitted to work or required to be available, otherwise known as “on call.”
In the case of a “residential employee,” or one that lives on the employer’s premises, the employee is not compensated for the hours that they are not required to work, such as their regular sleeping hours or any other time when they are allowed to leave the employer’s premises. If you travel for your job and feel it’s compensable, contact Cilenti & Cooper, PLLC. Call us confidentially at 718-841-7474. As New York employment law attorneys, we can consult with you on the travel time rules and whether you’re entitled to compensation for your travel time.