On the Road Again: Travel Pay for Non-Exempt Employees

An interesting question: when you you need to count toward “work time” the travel time incurred by non-exempt employees? The answer may not be as simple as you might think.

Obviously, normal commutes to and from the employee’s standard work location at the beginning and end of the work day are usually not compensable. You’re not going to include the time an employee spends sitting in morning rush hour traffic toward her work time.

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And most everyone knows that travel between work locations during the day does count. So when an administrative assistant drives from the satellite office where he normally works to set up for a company event at the corporate offices across town, that travel time counts toward his work hours.

But what happens when you need to send an overtime-eligible employee out of town? What (if any) of their travel time counts toward their work hours?

There are a couple of situations to consider:

Day Trips

What happens if an employee normally works in one location, but has to work at another location for the day — one that’s not far enough away to warrant an overnight trip?

The commute to the second location would count as work time, with one caveat. You can subtract the amount of time the employee would normally spend on their usual commute, and only count the excess time toward their work hours.

So if it normally takes an employee 20 minutes to get to the office, but they’re working in a location that’s an 90 minutes away, you would need to credit them with two hours and 20 minutes of work time for their morning and evening commutes (90 minutes, minus 20 minutes, then multiplied by two, to cover both morning and evening).

Overnight Travel

Often, when workers travel farther away, the trip will involve an overnight stay and travel outside of normal work hours. Does the time spent traveling need to be counted towards the employee’s work hours?

Turns out, it depends on when and how the travel takes place.

  • According to the Department of Labor, you have to pay for the travel time if it occurs during the employee’s normal working hours, no matter what day of the week it is. For instance, let’s assume an employee normally works from 8:30am until 5:30pm on Monday through Friday. If they travel for work any time between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm — even if it’s on Saturday or Sunday — those hours should be paid. (It doesn’t matter what means of transportation the employee uses or if the employee performs work during this time. As long as the travel takes place during these hours, the time must count toward their work hours.)
  • If the travel occurs outside of the employee’s normal working hours, but they must drive a vehicle themselves for the travel, the time is compensable and must count toward their work hours for the week.
  • If the travel occurs outside of those normal work hours and the employee is a passenger (on an airplane, train, bus, car, etc.) and they perform no work while traveling, then the time is not compensable and does not count toward their work time.

Of course, if the employee performs work while they’re a passenger, that time must count toward work hours. Any time an employee actually works — regardless of when it happens or what else is going on at the time — that time counts toward work hours.

(And if their travel time plus other work time totals over 40 hours for the week, they’ll be due overtime pay for the excess.)

Timekeeping Concerns

So the big problem then becomes: how do you accurately track your employees’ travel time? By definition, if they’re traveling, they’re not in your office, so they can’t use your office-based time tracking system. And hand-written time sheets are notoriously inaccurate… but you still need to track their time — not just the total number of hours, but also the actual start and end times so you’ll know if any of their travel takes place during their normal hours of work.

This is where cloud-based services such as our AcroTime workforce management really shine!

Employees can clock in and out with the AcroTime smartphone app, or over the web using any available Internet connection, so clocking in and out is easy… even from the airport, train station or a parking lot. You can accurately track their travel time and make sure you pay them correctly.

For more information, or to give AcroTime a try (it’s free for 30 days, no risk!) contact us.

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