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How to Pay for Employee Travel Time

Non-exempt workers, as the term implies, are not exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules and regulations. Employees who fall into this category must be given overtime pay of not less than one-and-a-half times their hourly rate for any hours worked beyond 40 each week. But what do you pay these employees when they travel for business purposes?

Travel time pay rules are confusing, even to the most experienced manager. The following are some travel time scenarios and how to handle them:

Overnight travel or business trips

Generally, the Department of Labor does not consider time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours compensable, unless the person is performing job duties during that time. However, travel time during the employee's normal workday must be paid, including corresponding hours on non-working days.

For example, if an employee's normal shift is from Noon to 8 pm, Monday through Friday, and they travel on Saturday during those hours (e.g., take a flight back home), they should be paid for the travel time regardless of whether they are performing work while traveling.

Generally, travel from a hotel to a job site, if it is a reasonable distance, does not need to be paid and is treated like commute time.

Local travel

Travel time from home to work – the time the employee would normally spend commuting to his/her regular job site — generally does not need to be paid (the Portal-to-Portal Act). However, if an employee needs to report to a job site that they do not regularly report to that is further away from their normal reporting location, a portion of the time may need to be paid.

Same day, out-of-town travel

An employer should pay an employee for all time spent traveling to and from another city in the same day. In some situations, the employee's normal home-to-work time can be deducted as commute time.

Travel as part of job duties

For employees whose regular job duties include travel as part of their principal activity (e.g., driving to and from different job sites during the workday), that travel time should be treated as hours worked.

A few final guidelines for how to pay non-exempt employees who are traveling:

  • If the travel occurs during the regular workday, then the employee should be paid for it.
  • If the person is performing work while traveling (e.g., calling clients while in the car, writing price quotes while on a train, or holding a meeting while driving to a work event with other employees in the car) then the employee should be paid.
  • Regular non-working meal periods and sleeping time do not need to be paid.

State laws also have specific rules regarding travel time pay for non-exempt employees. Employers are encouraged to speak with an HR professional if they have any questions about how to apply these rules for their business.