When commuting time varies, do we have to pay for trips in excess of ‘normal’? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

When commuting time varies, do we have to pay for trips in excess of ‘normal’?

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Q. Our maintenance employees drive company vehicles and keep them overnight. The employees are responsible for servicing a number of stores. Some days, they report to our warehouse to pick up parts before going to their first location. On other days, they report directly to a work site. Depending on where they report, their initial driving time may be one hour longer or 15 minutes shorter than their trip to the warehouse. Do we have to pay them for any time in excess of their normal commuting time to the warehouse?

A. No. The Portal-to-Portal Act, which is a part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, provides that “normal travel” from home to work is not compensable, unless an express provision of a contract, custom or practice to the contrary is in effect.

One court recently held that an employee who covered stores in a two-state territory was not entitled to driving time to the first location, without regard to the length of distance traveled or the benefit to the employer of having only one employee cover a large geographic area.

This interpretation is consistent with other courts’ holdings. For example, a farm worker’s two-hour bus commute was held not compensable. Similarly, police officers’ travel to a remote site for a three-day training program was held not compensable.

As long as your employees’ travel from home to work is a contemplated, normal occurrence of their employment, you will not have to pay them for time in excess of their normal commuting time to the warehouse.

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