Travel Time Compensation: A Clarification
Travel time compensation is an issue that continues to plague employers. It’s not that complicated. Travel time is considered compensable work hours where the employer requires its employees to meet at a designated place, use the employer’s transportation to and from work site and prohibits employees from using their own transportation.
Compulsory travel time longer than the employee’s normal commute is considered compensable time. Travel time to a job site within reasonable proximity of the employee’s regular work is not compensable. If an employee has no regular job site, travel time to the new job site each day is not compensable. If an employee has a temporary work location change, the employee must be compensated for any additional time required to the new job site in excess of the employee’s normal commute.
The definition of hours worked can be found in your respective Industrial Welfare Commission Order (IWC) that is required to be posted at your work site. Just keep in mind that work hours are simply means the time during which an employee is subject to the control of the employer, and includes all time the employee is permitted to work, whether or not required to do so. It should be noted, state law does not distinguish between hours worked during “normal” working hours, nor does it distinguish between hours worked in connection with overnight out-of-town assignments.
Under California law, if an employer requires an employee to attend out-of-town business meetings, training, or any other event, the employer cannot disclaim an obligation to pay for the employee’s time in getting to and from the location of that event. Time spent driving, or as a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi, car, or other mode of transportation, in traveling to and from this out-of-town event, and time spent waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board is, under such circumstances, time spent carrying out the employer’s directive, and thus, is characterized as time in which the employee is subject to the employer’s control. On the other hand, time spent taking a break from traveling in order to eat a meal, sleep or to engage in purely personal activities not connected with traveling or making necessary travel connections (as an example, spending an extra day to sightsee) is not compensable.
Now, let’s talk about compensation. The rate at which the travel must be paid depends upon the nature of the compensation agreement. If the employer has agreed to pay a fixed hourly rate of pay for any work performed, then travel time must be paid at that hourly rate, or if applicable, the required overtime rate. An employer may establish a separate rate of pay for travel before the work is performed for hourly employees, provided that the rate does not fall below minimum wage. Salary non-exempt employees must be paid at the appropriate overtime rate for any hours worked in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 in a week, computed by converting the weekly salary to an hour rate. Exempt employees are paid their normal compensation.
Finally, keep in mind, all necessary expenses incurred in connection with employer-required travel must be reimbursed to the employee (California Labor Code Section 2802).