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When Workers Must be Paid for On-the-Job Travel

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on March 19, 2012 7:04 AM

Employees who must travel to different work sites, or to different customer locations during the work day, generally must be paid for their travel time. But how employee travel time is calculated can be a bit complicated.

In general, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act controls issues regarding wages and hours, and describes when employees must be paid for work-related travel. Here are some general guidelines:

Travel During the Work Day in General

If an employee's job requires her to travel between different work sites or customer locations during a workday, the employee must generally be paid for her travel time.

Under the FLSA, travel as part of an employee's principal work activity is considered "hours worked." This can include errands like running to the bank to deposit work-related funds, or driving to court to file paperwork.

Travel by Plane, Train, or Boat

In general, if an employee's job requires her to travel by plane, train, or boat -- to attend an out-of-town conference, for example -- the actual time spent in transit must be compensated under the FLSA. However, an employee's travel from her home to the transit terminal is generally not considered "hours worked."

Travel by Car

If an employee's job requires her to travel by car, the law is a bit more complicated. An employee-driver may be compensated for all of her time behind the wheel, but an employee-passenger may only get paid for travel time during normal work hours.

Travel for Work-Related Emergencies

Finally, if a situation arises that requires an employee to travel for work during a time she wasn't scheduled to work, the employee must generally be paid for her work-related travel time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has an interactive online tool to help determine when an employee should be paid for on-the-job travel time. You may also want to consult an attorney to make sure your actions don't veer off-course.

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