Q. What if an employee drives his own car to a seminar that’s two hours away? Should he get paid for his driving time to and from the seminar, even if he leaves from home and drives straight home afterward?
A. Generally, ordinary home-to-work commuting is not compensable regardless of whether the employee works at a fixed location.
Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, employers aren’t required to compensate employees for “walking, riding or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform.” (29 U.S.C. § 251-262) That includes all activities that are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.
There is an exception if an employee is given a special one-day work assignment in another city.
If the unusual assignment is for the benefit of the employer, then the travel time (less the employee’s normal commuting time) would be counted as compensable time. (29 C.F.R. § 785.37)
The analysis is fact-specific, and you should consult your attorney before making a determination. If the time is compensable, it also needs to be counted for purposes of determining overtime.