We get questions . . .
Recently a client called with this dilemma. One of its employees, an hourly non-exempt employee, is required to travel during the working day to locations away from the main office. Sometimes, the employee goes directly to an offsite location from home at the beginning of the day. On other occasions, the employee returns directly home after an appointment without coming back to the office. On yet other occasions, the employee comes to the office before leaving for the first appointment or returns to the office from the last appointment of the day before going home.
The employee has claimed an entitlement to be paid for travel time between home and these offsite locations even though the employee acknowledges that no pay is required for the time the employee spends driving between home and office.
The general rule is that employee commute time between home and work is not compensable work. Drive time directly between home and a work related assignment within the same day and within the same city or area is commute time even if the employee does not first go to the office or return to the office before going home. This is made clear in regulations of the United States Department of Labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 C.F.R. section 785.38.
In the situation raised by the client, the employee lived more than an hour away from the office. Often times the employee was assigned to go to an offsite location first thing in the morning that was equally as far away from home as the office. Nonetheless, the employee claimed pay for the travel to the offsite location even though pay was not claimed for regular commute to the office. We advised that the employer is not required to pay for this travel time based upon the clear language of the federal regulation. However, if the employee was required to report to the office first before leaving for the appointment, the employee would go “on the clock” on arrival at the office and then the drive time between the office and the appointment would be compensable. The same would be true at the end of the work day if the employee returned from an appointment to the office before going home. The drive time back to the office would be compensable but the commute back to the employee’s home would not be.
A separate set of rules applies if the employee is required to travel out of the city, especially if the business trip requires an overnight stay. That subject will be dealt with in these pages by a later post.