The attorneys who participate in the HR Specialist's Employment Lawyer Network get lots of detailed questions from our readers. Here's one that tackles the tricky issue of how to pay for travel time outside normal working hours.
Q. How do we pay hourly employees who are traveling on a day that’s not considered a workday, like Saturday or Sunday? What if they normally have a 10-minute commute to the office but instead they have to go to the airport, and the airport is an hour from their homes?
A. Under the Portal-to-Portal Act exception to the Fair Labor Standards Act ( ), time spent in transit is generally not compensable. Employers are not required to pay for time spent traveling “to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform.”
Therefore, normal home-to-work travel does not need to be paid.
However, an employer is required to pay for the travel time associated with any “special” or “unusual” assignments to another city. What constitutes a “special” or “unusual” assignment is a matter of case law. Generally speaking, an assignment will not be considered “special” or “unusual” if it was a normal, contemplated and mandated incident of employment. Just because the travel may be infrequent does not automatically make it “special” or “unusual.”
In addition, you state that this travel time is on a nonworkday. The travel time is not considered working hours (as explained above) unless it cuts across an employee’s regular work hours, regardless of the day of the week. For example, if an employee regularly works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, any travel time from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday would be considered working hours. Any travel time outside those core hours is not.
This can be a complicated issue, and you should consult with counsel to determine the application of the FLSA to your particular situation.