Your employees travel all over the place. You need to pay them for that, and you don’t want to violate any federal or state laws. How do you comply, especially since the calculations are incredibly complex? What you need is a simple way to figure out what you owe your employees. A way that doesn’t require you to get another degree in accounting.
Travel By Plane, Train, or Boat
The FSLA laws on overtime and travel time pay has changed. If your employee’s job requires her to travel between different work sites or customer locations, then the employee usually has to be paid for that travel time. This is true only when the travel happens during scheduled work hours or when the employee is working in an official capacity for the company.
Under the FLSA, traveling, as part of an employees “principal work activity” is considered “hours worked.” It doesn’t matter whether the employee is running errands like depositing checks or driving to court to file paperwork or appearing on behalf of the company. All of this time is paid.
Calculate this as you would normal work hours, with any hours in excess of 40 hours counted as overtime. However, any travel between the employee’s home and the transit terminal is not considered “hours worked” for purposes of the FLSA.
Travel By Car
Traveling by car is a little more complicated. If an employee’s job requires that he travel by car, he might be eligible for pay for the entire time he’s behind the wheel – even if he is driving after scheduled work hours. If the employee is merely a passenger, however, he is only eligible for pay for travel during normal work hours.
When the employee is driving, do not include the employee’s commute to and from work. These miles are not payable. Only things like office-to-office or office-to-client are payable. For example, let’s assume an employee is traveling from the office to another office location. You would have to pay the employee for this travel time. If the employee is going on-site to a client’s location, you must also pay for this time. If an employee is making bank deposits for the company, or meeting with a vendor, you must pay for the travel time.
Traveling For Work-Related Emergencies
If something happens, and an employee is called to work, and has to travel outside of normal work hours, she may be entitled to pay during that travel time. Pay is only for business-related travel. For car travel, you only pay for distances traveled between work and other locations, not the employee’s normal commute.
The U.S. Department of Labor also maintains an interactive online tool for determining when an employee should be paid for travel time. The Hours Worked Advisor will help illustrate situations when you may have to pay an employee to give you a better idea of whether or not the employee is due regular pay or overtime.
Keep in mind that even the online tool cannot include every possible situation, you should not rely on the tool to provide you with a clear-cut answer in every situation. You may need to contact an attorney to sort out any “gray” areas or unusual circumstances.
Marcus Anderson is a frequent business traveler of several years. When he’s sitting waiting for a flight or a taxi, he likes to share his insights by blogging online.