Q. How should we go about determining how much we need to pay employees for travel time?
A. An employer is generally not required to pay a nonexempt employee for travel time from his or her home to a site where an employee is to perform essential parts of the activities for which the employee has been hired.
There is an exception to this general rule if the employee regularly works at a fixed location and is given a special or unusual assignment in another location.
For example, an employee who works in Washington, D.C., with regular working hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. may be given a special assignment in New York City, with instructions to leave Washington at 8 a.m. He arrives in New York at noon, ready for work. All the time involved, however, need not be counted.
Since, except for the special assignment, the employee would have had to report to his regular work site, the travel between his home and the railroad depot may be deducted. It falls under the “home-to-work” category. Also, of course, the usual meal time would be deductible.
If the travel is normal and contemplated as part of the employment, it is not unusual or special under the meaning of the regulation, even if it is infrequent.
However, time spent by an employee in travel as part of his or her principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked and is compensable.
If travel keeps an employee away from home overnight then it is considered “travel away from home” which counts as working time when it occurs on working or nonworking days during normal working hours. For example, if an employee regularly works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, then travel time during these hours is work time on Saturday and Sunday as well as on the other days.
However, if an employee’s plans require traveling before or after regular working hours, then that time is not considered working time and an employer is not required to pay for it.
Any work that an employee is required to perform while traveling must, of course, be counted as hours worked and the employee must be paid for that time.