Travel Time and Overtime Wages

 

 The new overtime rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was set to into effect on December 1, 2016.  You can find information on the new rule here.  However, on November 22, 2016, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the rule from being implemented.  

That decision may be appealed or overturned.  Or a scaled-back version of the rule may be put in place next year under the new administration. 

If the current version of the rule does go into effect, a number of employers will be converting currently exempt employees to nonexempt because those employees won’t meet the required salary threshold under the new rule.  Those nonexempt employees will have to begin tracking and recording their work hours.  They will also need to be paid overtime.  As a result, employers have questions regarding payment of travel time for newly nonexempt employees. 

 A number of states have rules on what travel time must be paid.  For example, in Wisconsin, compensable travel time includes:

·         Travel during the employee's workday

·         Travel that keeps the employee from being at his or her home overnight

·         Travel to and from a one-day assignment away from the employee's regular work location, but excluding the employee's normal commute

·         Work performed while travelling.  This includes driving, unless the employee declined the employer's offer to use public transportation

 

In California, employers must pay wages for all hours an employee is engaged in extended travel.  There is no distinction between hours worked:

      ·         During normal working hours

·         Outside normal working hours

·         In connection with an overnight out-of-town assignment

·         In connection with a one-day out-of-town assignment

Additionally for California, time spent travelling to and from an out-of-town event or waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board is considered compensable travel time.  Time spent taking a break from travel to eat a meal, sleep, or engage in purely personal pursuits not connected with travelling is not compensable.

For employees in other states, it’s possible they could be covered by their own state laws relating to travel.  If a state doesn’t have specific laws on employee travel, then, in general under the FLSA, travel time away from home is work time when it cuts across the employee’s normal work hours, regardless of the day of the week.  Any time the employee spends performing work tasks while traveling is also compensable under the FLSA.

Work hours for nonexempt employees can include compensable travel time.  Those employees must be paid overtime when required under federal or state law.