When I have a non-exempt employee travel for work, do I need to pay for travel time?

When I have a non-exempt employee travel for work, do I need to pay for travel time?

When I have a non-exempt employee travel for work, do I need to pay for travel time? How should I approach this?

By Amanda Doun, HR Business Partner, Trüpp.

Under federal law, the time spent by a non-exempt employee as part of their primary job duties such as traveling from one job site to another job site during the work day is considered as hours worked. However, whether travel time is compensable can depend on other factors such as the kind of travel involved. Below are some specific examples that might apply to your situation:

  • Ordinary home to work travel or your “daily commute” is not considered compensable.
  • Let’s say your non-exempt employee has a special work assignment in a city away from their fixed location and they return home in the same day. Although the time spent in traveling to and from the other city is considered work time, employers may exclude time the employee would normally spend commuting to their regular fixed work location.
  • In situations where a non-exempt employee is required to travel for work that keeps them away from home for more than one day, whenever travel crosses into an employee’s regular working hours including Saturday and Sunday, travel must be compensated. For example, if an employee regularly works 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday and travels on Sunday from 2 pm to 6 pm, they should be compensated for three hours for the hours traveled between 2 pm to 5 pm, as any time after 5 pm is outside of their regular working hours.
  • If the travel requires the employee to be physically driving, travel time must be compensated regardless of scheduled hours; but if the employee is a passenger, and travel falls outside of regular working hours, it would not be considered compensable unless the employee was required to perform work while traveling.

To sum up these situations in simpler terms, if the non-exempt employee is traveling within the start and end time of their regular working schedule on a non-working day, yes, they should be compensated. Employers should also be aware that pay for travel time is only applicable to non-exempt employees, as exempt employees are generally paid on a salary basis regardless of the number of hours it takes to complete their work. Additionally, although there are many state wage and hour laws that mirror federal requirements, employers should always check with their state agencies to determine if their state has requirements that differ from federal law.