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Rules of the road: Know when to pay hourly employees for travel time

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in Centerpiece,Employment Law,Human Resources

Travel payYou don’t need to pay nonexempt employees for their commuting time to and from the workplace. That’s simple. But what if such employees occasionally travel off-site (or even overnight) for work reasons?

When to pay nonexempt workers for travel locally or on overnight trips baffles many employers. Mistakes can spark anything from mild complaints to class-action lawsuits—a black eye for you either way.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has rules on compensating hourly employees for travel time. The best way to decipher them is using a case study.


Avoid making an FLSA compliance mistake and winding up in court — Download Overtime Labor Law: 6 compliance tips to avoid overtime lawsuits, wage-and-hour Labor audits and FLSA exemption mistakes. This FREE special report will serve as a guide when reviewing your overtime pay policy and double-checking your FLSA exempt employees' status.

Home-to-work travel

Let’s say Robert Smith is a nonexempt employee who sometimes travels for work. It’s clear that you don’t need to pay for his commute to work; the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 covers that.

But suppose you ask Robert to pick up some company documents along the way to work. In that case, you’d pay him from the time he picks up the documents. The law says that if the travel is for the company’s benefit, it is compensable. If it is purely commuting, it’s not.

Working at different locations

The U.S. Department of Labor says travel time spent by employees as part of their principal activity, such as travel among job sites during the workday, is considered “work time” and must be paid.

For example, say Robert reports to headquarters before making his rounds to visit other company locations. In that case, the commute to headquarters is commuting time, but all travel from headquarters until his last stop is paid time.

Time from the last stop to home is unpaid commuting time. Any travel that is a regular part of the employee’s job is paid time.

Out-of-town day trips

Generally, time spent traveling to and returning from the other city is work time. You can exclude the employee’s regular commuting time and meal breaks.

For example, say Robert drives to the airport and takes a 6 am flight to a seminar in Chicago. He arrives at 8:30 am and takes a cab to the seminar.

The seminar runs from 9 to 5, with an hour lunch break. After the seminar, he chats with friends for an hour before taking a cab back to the airport. He flies back to his base city and drives home.

Which hours count as “compensable” time?

You don’t have to pay Robert for his trip to the airport; that’s commuting time. But you do have to pay him from the time he arrives at the airport through his flight, cab ride and during the Chicago seminar. (You don’t have to pay for his lunch period.)

Do you pay for Robert’s chatting time with friends? If there are no other flights home until later, yes. But if Robert simply opts for a later flight to swap stories with his buddies, the answer is “No.”

The cab back to the Chicago airport and the flight home are paid time. The drive home from the airport is considered unpaid commuting time.

Final tip: Make sure nonexempt employees understand when they will be paid before they travel. Spell out the rules clearly in your employee policies.

Know the FLSA rules for rest periods, on-call time, training and more

In addition to travel time, employers face many other questions about what counts as “compensable time” under the FLSA. Here are answers to some of the stickier issues:

ON-CALL TIME. Employees required to remain on call on the employer’s premises are considered working while on call. Employees required to remain on call at home (or who can leave a message where they can be reached) are considered not working (in most cases) while on call.

WAITING TIME. Employees are paid for waiting time when they are “engaged to wait.” Employees fall under that definition if they’re required to be at a work site while waiting to perform work.

REST AND MEAL PERIODS. You typically must pay employees for short rest periods, usually 20 minutes or less. You generally don’t need to pay employees for bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more).

Employees must be completely relieved from duty during unpaid breaks and meal periods. Example: If you require your assistant to eat lunch at her desk in case a call comes in, she must be paid because she hasn’t been fully relieved of her duties.

Note: Many states set their own rest-break and meal-break laws. For more information on state break requirements, see .

SLEEPING TIME. Employees required to be on duty for less than 24 hours are considered “working,” even if they’re permitted to sleep. Employees required to be on duty for 24 hours or more may agree with their employer to exclude from hours worked any scheduled sleeping periods of eight hours or less.

TRAINING PROGRAMS AND MEETINGS. You don’t have to pay employees for time spent at training programs, lectures or similar activities as long as they meet the following four criteria: (1) The event is outside normal hours. (2) It’s voluntary. (3) It’s not job-related. (4) No work is performed during that time.

Source: Adapted from DOL Fact Sheet No. 22.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Curtis Cates September 21, 2017 at 2:47 am

Can my employer pay me less hourly when I travel? Like two dollars less an hour. In California


H August 22, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Does a non-exempt employee get paid travel time if called back to work after the normal work day? We do not have on-call. The employee was not on call, but simply called and asked to come back in. Is their time from home to work and back again compensated?


sarah August 21, 2017 at 9:02 pm

The day starts at the office then travel to a school, then back to the office. Can the employer count the drive back to the office as unpaid lunch time?


DAle August 10, 2017 at 8:47 am

I recently made a trip out of town and my flight was delayed for 8 hours. My employer says that I’m not paid for the delay since I wasn’t working. I’m an non-exempt employee. Are they correct?


Kevin August 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

I am a non-exempt (hourly) paid employee who works remotely from home full-time. I am being asked to travel for an ad-hoc on-site meeting next month for a few days. I’m just curious how my time should be tracked and logged during this trip. Since I don’t typically have any kind of commute (working from home) would I include time spent driving to and from the airport, time in the airport, etc…? Thank you in advance!


MARIE HERRICK July 12, 2017 at 4:05 pm



Melissa June 8, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Travel time to and from a work site is considered hours worked on working days as well as non-working days if that travel occurs during the employees normal working hours. But is it considered time worked if an employee is assigned to a project that is 6hrs away from home and will keep him/her there for 4 months straight and he/she wants to go home in the middle of the project?


tp January 4, 2017 at 2:00 pm

If I am an hourly employee and travel to different sites for my job. My employer has always paid me for the time it took me to drive to a different site, but I was required to punch out before I left one site and then punch in at the next site. Should I have punched in at the beginning of my day then punched out when I was done for the day or are multiple punches required?


Courtney December 7, 2016 at 2:04 pm

I am going out of town for a work training. I have to fly on a Thursday and I come back on a Sunday. I hours of the training are 8-12, 2-6 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I normally work M-F 4-8 (give or take a few hours). Should I be getting paid for this?
Let me know what you think!


Lindsey December 6, 2016 at 5:08 pm

My husband goes to shop loads up and they all get into several different company trucks and drive 2 hours to job site work and then drive 2 hours back to shop to load and gas up trucks for next day should all the guess be paid for the 4 hours of travel time


Jane Doe November 17, 2016 at 9:14 pm

My boss asked me to drive 6 hours to work , to work for a few hours than drive 6 hours back home. I have to leave at 230 am to be there. I just started do t want to be taken advantage of he doesn’t seem that way but have a bitter taste in my mouth that he wants me to drive 12 hours in one day outside of working in between commute and not offer to put me in a hotel the night before? Am I wrong?


Olivia June 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

Theoretically, he can ask you to do that. However, I would say that if it’s not your normal worksite, you should be compensated for the mileage there and back. At 40-some cents per mile, that will add up to more than flight/hotel, most likely.


Schenely November 11, 2016 at 4:46 am

I’m a caregiver and I was asked to take my client to the airport out of town. Should I be paid to travel back to my town?


Nicole November 1, 2016 at 6:20 pm

I travel to many different work locations within a certain region, and do have a home office, with average commute time of 30 min. If a location I am visiting is 3 hours away, shouldn’t I be paid for 2.5 hours travel time? My employer is saying no because they us mileage reimbursement. This is a new policy and is drastically changing how long a work day could be. It seems that law says we must be paid travel time between job sites as well, and again, they are saying because of the mileage. Please help. Thanks!


Molly November 6, 2016 at 7:34 am

The mileage reimbursement pays for use of your car. The hourly is use of your time. Be bold! It’s the law!


Kris October 4, 2016 at 8:06 pm

Is it required that we pay the full hourly wage for travel or is it permissible to set a travel rate?


Brian Monk September 26, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I am a hourly loss prevention employee, and I cover 10 Stores. I am paid to travel in between stores.
Should I be getting paid to travel to and from stores? Most travel times are at least 30 minutes each way. I am paid mileage, other companies I have worked always paid hourly employees for time traveled to and from stores, or if it took you 30 minutes to get home you would leave 30 minutes early to make up for the drive time.


Rob September 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm

I travel out of state a lot for work. For 1 to 2 weeks at a time. Until recently my company paid us from the time we all met up in the lobby to leave the hotel, throughout the work day, and then we went off the clock when we arrived back at the hotel. They have since, told us we would only be paid from the time we reach the work site until the time we left. My question is, is this the proper way to compensate employees while on out of state travel? We aren’t commuting in the way we do while at our home station. Also, what happens if an accident happens going to or leaving? If we aren’t technically “on the clock” while in transit, what happens?


Tom May 5, 2017 at 4:00 pm

I have just experienced the same situation. What is the outcome of your situation? I am out of town 3+ weeks at a time. Stay at hotels and meet up the same. Same exact situation. Thanks


Jess August 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm

Hey I work for a yoga studio as an hourly non exempt employee. During the day I work multiple shifts depending on when/where my classes are. For instance. I might teach at one of our locations. From 9-11 (Work the desk half an hour before class, teach the class for an hour, and work the desk again 30 minutes after) get payed for 2 hours time. Then I will go to another one of our locations and will do the same thing from 12-2 get paid for another 2 hours time. I don’t get paid for my time in between and I dont get reimbursed for the cost it takes me to get from one location to another. Is this something they should be paying me for?


Angela August 20, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Ok I do pd in homecare my agency sent me out first day to a case that was over an hour away. I asked if I could have a few extra minutes due to traffic. Then I get bitched out. It was a Friday morning traffic in Atlanta is horrible I do not care where you live rush hour can leave you in a jam at worst 4 hours. They just gave the info the night before. That’s kinda messed up Im expected to make a trip on paper that is an hour n a half in a third of the time because in reality its a two plus hour trip because of traffic. Even getting off of “280 is a nightmare because its a bottle neck. Im not making excuses. But **** lets be realistic. I love the type of work I do but traffic is horrible in Atlanta,the inp or otp . Everything either bottlenecks,is slow or non moving during rush hour. We got stuck in a 6 hilour non moving traffic jam on the way here for an accident that was almost 30 miles up the road. I need more time to plan . I just got the info the night before.


Pamela Spoor August 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

I am being required as part of my job to travel 3.5 hours one way to attend an all day conference and then travel 3.5 hours return in order to be at work the following day. Am I entitled to be paid for that time. My normal travel to work is .5 hours.


Nate August 12, 2016 at 7:02 pm

I am traveling on business and where i am working while on the road is 15 miles from my girlfriends house. My boss said that she does not want we to stay with her and that i have to stay at a hotel near where i am reporting for work, is this legal?


Brent August 5, 2016 at 9:57 pm

My (hourly) shift starts at 5pm, and our time clock is in the front of the building. The employer starts a shift meeting right at 5pm, on the other side of the plant. The employer has told me that I have to clock in 5 minutes early, so that I can get to the meeting area on time, but has stated that they are not paying me for that 5 minutes of time. However, if I don’t clock in early, they have said there may be disciplinary action. Do they have to pay me for that 5 minutes if I am required to clock in at 4:55pm?


Ross August 2, 2016 at 1:26 pm

What can happen if boss is not paying us road time it pretty much two hours to location and two hours back to yard


DL September 9, 2016 at 3:41 pm

You should be compensated for one way. Either your time there, or your time back. If you begin work at one location and then drive to the job site your compensable time begins when you started work. So you would be paid for your drive there. However, once you set your tools down and load up to come home, your compensable time ends. Your travel home is within the “normal” (check your company handbook) commuting distance and these hours are not “hours worked”. There for return trip home is not compensable.
Be grateful you aren’t an airline pilot. They are required to report to to the airport two hours prior to flight time but they are only paid once the plane engine is turned on. Count your blessings, you are employed.


Jim July 31, 2016 at 11:04 pm

I am a Therapeutic Support Staff. I work with clients in school then travel to different ones in their homes and take ones out in the community using my vehicle. I am not paid mileage for any of what I mentioned. Is this something that I should be paid for. A lot of my fellow employees have not been paid for this in many years with the company.


steve July 12, 2016 at 1:47 pm

my company has us travel out of town and stay to work on a onstruction site… the site in the other state goes 8hours a day so i get that plus travel..but since i am forced to be in another state don’t i get paid the entire time as travel minus meal breaks? like 22hours a day?


karen Nicholls July 12, 2016 at 7:50 am

My partner travels to work and takes around 20 minutes to get to the yard, he then gets in a wagon and drives to the fencing job. it takes around 2 hours to get there, he does the job and then travels 2 hours back to the yard, loads up for the next day, and then travels home, should this 4 hours travelling be classed as paid work?


Dan July 14, 2016 at 8:26 am

Absolutely. The travel from the yard to the site is for the benefit of the company, and should be paid. The unpaid time is the travel to and from the yard to your home.


Veronica June 6, 2016 at 11:44 am

I recently traveled to India I left on a Saturday and arrived in Inida on Monday morning. I was paid 8 hours for Saturday and Sunday. My return trip I left for the airport on Wednesday at 10:30 P.M. and arrived at the airport in my home state at 1:30a.m. on Friday. I was paid for only 8 hours of travel time for Wednesday and Thursday. Am I not due full pay for the total amount of travel time?


jb May 6, 2016 at 8:55 pm

I’d like to know if I should be paid from the time I pick my crew up at the office , then we leave to go to the field we get off at 8 pm but I don’t get them back to the office till 9pm sometimes later but we are clocked out at 8pm I use my own car and pick them up at 130pm but don’t get clocked in till 2pm any help would be appreciated. I do get 20.00 a day for gas but not miles put on my car and sometimes I use more of my own money for gas .


jb May 6, 2016 at 8:50 pm

I’d like to know if I should be paid from the time I pick my crew up at the office , then we leave to go to the field we get off at 8 pm but I don’t get them back to the office till 9pm sometimes later but we are clocked out at 8pm I use my own car and pick them up at 130pm but don’t get clocked in till 2pm any help would be appreciated.


jb May 6, 2016 at 8:52 pm

Plus I don’t get paid for miles put on my car .


Drew April 29, 2016 at 6:51 am

While traveling and working at a out of town remote location my employer makes us meet at hotel lobby and carpool in company provided rental vehicles to and from work. Is this time compensated ?


boomer March 24, 2016 at 9:38 pm

I get picked up in a company truck and we drive an hour or more each way to the jobsite is this time compensable. The company refuses to pay anyone travel time.


Harley Long March 23, 2016 at 10:02 am

I recently just traveled for my company. There was a 2.5hr drive to the airport, 8hr flight to Germany, 4 hr lay over, 6hr flight to Saudi, and 2hr ride to the hotel. 2.5+8+4+6+2= 22.5 hrs. Now after reading this article I lose the hours from driving; but I didn’t assign the flights, so i keep the 4 hr lay over. so takes me to 18hrs of travel pay. Now my employer has a “policy” in which he refuses to pay any more than 12 hours of travel. Is that legally within his grounds to do? Can he just cut me 6 hours?


C.Mayers March 17, 2016 at 4:35 pm

i work 24 hr call, i work away from my shop on a drilling rig offshore or a land based rig, offshore we stay onboard until our services are needed, land is the same ,we usually sleep in our trucks, with our new rate of pay, from salary and daily job bonus to hourly, this company wants to pay us 16 hours a day but charge the customer 24 hours a day, should they have to pay us what they charge the customer?


James kahana March 8, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Hi so I work as a roof and we jump in the company truck at about 7:30 in the morning and drive sometimes two hours just to the jobsite should we be getting payed for these hours


Al March 4, 2016 at 1:54 am

I’am a Limo driver, where I get my assignments via email where to pickup the passenger and where to drop them off (i.e. airport, home, hotel, business). My employer does not pay me for the travel time to pickup the passenger and the travel time after I drop of the passenger. I do not get any wait time which can sometimes be hours (depending on what type of job it is). I only get paid once the passenger is in the car, once they are dropped at their destination. Sometimes I have to drive for hours to pickup a passenger, or drive to my next pickup. I do not get paid for waiting for my next job.

Sometimes I will work 10-14 hours a day but only get paid for 6-8 hours.


Wes February 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm

If im working out of town for 10 weeks in Texas and do not have the option to come home to Georgia during the weekends does me boss have to pay me for the two days im stuck at the hotel? Like a minimum of 8 hours bc I cannot return home?


PAVLO February 2, 2016 at 9:08 pm

I drive a company truck home so l get that when l start my day l have to clock in at the office via GPS then l start getting paid as an hourly rate. Then l drive 32miles to my job location. My boss told me NYS has a labor law where if the site you work is 38 miles away from the home office then you are allowed a half an hour pay to drive home. I’ve been driving a work van for over twenty years and never heard of such a law. It seams it would not benifit me anyway but I’m looking to find out where this “Law” came from. Can’t find any information on it anywhere.


Steve December 2, 2015 at 7:27 pm

I’m issued a company vehicle and I am dispatched to different locations from my house as it benefits my company. I’m on call from M-F 24 hours. I have to be able to be dispatch within an half and hour to an hour of being called. So I don’t have leisure time. We have an HQ that’s 75 miles from my home. When we are dispatch from home to different sites I’m not compensated travel time. Our company “designate” some of these sites as “home” sites, but we have no presence there. Some instances we work 16-18 hours day, but don’t get travel time home. We were also do not receive 30 minutes lunch. They made us sign a form stating that we know that our jobs sometimes runs long and that we’re are aware we will not get a lunch break. I understand if it was 8 hours, but 12-18 hours is a little ridicolous for not having a meal break.

I feel that they the company is breaking some labor laws here.


jeff October 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

After i leave my job site at the end of the day with no more setvice calls to attend my employer requires me to clock out at that point even though he requires me to d4ive his vehicle back to the office. Which could be over an hour of drive time. Is this fair ? I feel like im being taken advantage of.

If i could take the work vehicle home that would be different, but that is not the case. I must clock out at the job site, drive sometimes over an hour to return the truck, the keys, set office alarm and lock the office, help?? South fl


Steve August 11, 2015 at 1:19 am

My work requires travel from my home to various locations. These locations can be 2 miles or may be 200 miles from home. The company does not pay anything for the first 40 miles each way; 80 miles round trip. Visiting more than one location in a day is unlikely. Anything over the 40 mile requirement is compensated by a rate around 50 cents per mile. No wage for driving time is ever paid since they believe the mileage rate covers it. Question 1 is how do they arrive at 40 mile as the home to work/work to home minimum and is it legal? Question 2 is how can they pay mileage instead of hourly rate. And question 3 is how they avoid paying anything for hotel to work/work to hotel (mileage is generally under the 40 mile minimum)?


Lynda May 30, 2015 at 9:28 am

So far this web page regarding “Rules of the road” has given me 99% of information I need in order to take possible action against the company I work for. without getting fired. I’ am not sure where to start. legally. This is regarding past overtime hours, travel time between job sites, waiting on duty, waiting when “engaged to wait” a requirement to be at a work site while waiting to preform work, promised reimbursement for expensive computer supplies a requirement for our daily work, never completely relieved from duty during unpaid breaks. Only recently I and other employee’s have been getting overtime pay if authorized. So, far I and including the former employee’s that quit or got fired has gotten paid for past overtime hrs. or paid while on break (not relieved from duty completely ),reimbursement for computer supplies required for our job, travel time to next job site, or waiting while “engaged to wait” I worked mostly anywhere from 10 to 15hrs. a-day and got paid for 7 to 9.0 hrs. because our road supervisor says corporate don’t pay for waiting, or for traveling between job sites or fueling up the company vehicle.or breaks nor are we required to be relieved of all duties while taking a unpaid break. We are required to take clients to the pharmacy and are required to wait on duty 15min. or longer without pay. I do not get paid for waiting on duty or traveling between job sites that require driving anywhere from 5 to 65 miles or more. I’ am paid hourly not by the mile or piecerate (by the job) nor am I a taxi cab or limousine service. Each employee when hired is assigned a vehicle that they are required to use for their job, each newly hired employee is required to take home their assigned vehicle and they are required to take care of the vehicle by doing a post trip inspection from a list that is in their new hire packet, These vehicles are to be used for our daily work only and not for personal use, employee’s homes are like an unofficial off site headquarter base, for our company’s main Corporate office that is located in the lower part of our state of Arizona and they have a road supervisor and employed drivers for each county, road supervisor’s are required by corporate policy to set up a manifest the night before, emailing an allocated number of rides to each employed driver in their area. I’,m paid only 15 min.(I was told the company was doing us a favor) for calling clients the night before to make sure they are going the next day to their appointments, I don’t get paid for my off duty time to print out/write the information from the manifest that was emailed, nor do I get paid while off duty to search and write down all the information that is needed for my next days work, such as phone numbers, addresses,and off duty time spent locating on the map where these people live plus additional time up to 1hr. or longer calling beyond the paid 15 minutes. I also have to pay for my own supply’s i.e. computer,paper, and ink cartridges, when hired I was told from the road supervisor that the company would supply computer paper and ink cartridges as needed but I never heard from the company office nor was I ever asked if I need any supplies in order to be prepared for the next days duties. At the start of each day, I’ am required to have my phone turned on early as possible so I can be reached by our company road supervisor, when get into my vehicle I’ am required to text my road supervisor I’ am enroute to my first appointment (which I don’t get paid for). Then text again when I arrive (my pay starts) and text again to supervisor when I reach my destination(my pay stops) If I don’t have any scheduled appointments pending or any work site to go to I’ am to wait on duty(without pay) for my road supervisor to send me a text where to go for my next work site. He has given me a verbal warning and threatened that next time I send in my hours at the end of the day and I add hours for “waiting on duty” to go to a work site or add hours for traveling between work sites he will write me up and email to the company corporate office for further action. What can I do about this!! I get a 15 to 30 minute break periodically as I’ am required under doctor’s orders to get out of my vehicle walk around and stretch my back and legs because sitting for long hours at a time traveling compounds my lower spine that was injured last Sept. 2014, this injury occurred while “waiting on duty” (unpaid) for my next work site appointment. My road supervisor texted me a message to head to a work site where I was to pick up a client that was very heavy and large. I was not told he had a wheelchair, I called my supervisor who was to busy to get someone to help me load this wheelchair into the back trunk of my car, while trying to load I lost control of the chair because of it’s size and as a result I got injured. I managed to return him home with his wheelchair, because the driver with a wheelchair vehicle was not available. I’ am not required to pick up these type of clients as we have special vehicles for them and drivers. I like my job its great for the older worker. But I need to get paid as any employee should for the long hours worked but don’t. Can this company really do what it’s been doing legally.


Lewis July 13, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Did you ever follow up? can you let me know what happened?


Marcia July 31, 2017 at 10:17 am

Did you follow up on this? Pleased us know what happened.


Jill June 27, 2014 at 6:09 am

If I’m asked to travel to a different office that isn’t my typical office and is over 60 miles away do I get paid my hourly rate when I start driving or does it count as my commute time and no pay is given


kent regelin February 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I work for a company in tade industry. (sprinkler fitter). I drive a company stickered vehicle, (company logo). We, other that work for same company, are required to “give up” 60 miles in the morning and 60 miles at end of day. They say this is your normal commute time. Also, we are to have our phones turned on and expected to be availabe. How are we as field crew suppose to be paid for travel time. We work in Minnesota. Thanks


jorge gonzalez December 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm

If i get paid piecerate (per job). Should i get paid for travel time between job sites? Right now if i drive to multiple jobs and the customer is not home i dont get any kind incentives put in my paycheck.


eldon December 1, 2011 at 8:54 pm

If employees meet at their bosses house to carpool in company van to job site must they get paid for drive time?


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