Your company was built on hard work and the tenacity of a triathlete. Your foundation should also include best practices like paying employees for required travel time. Unnecessary lawsuits will torpedo your dream. Be diligent. But what employee travel time must you pay according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?

Regular Commute

When an employee commutes from home to work and back again, you’re not required to compensate them for this time. The ordinary home-to-work commute is considered a byproduct of any job and therefore is not an unusual situation that would need pay. An exception to this policy does exist. If an employee is called back to work at a customer’s site after completing their workday, the employee is entitled to compensation.

Trips Between Job Sites

Some jobs require travel while working. For example, a janitorial service may have its employees pick up their supplies from the company’s warehouse and then travel to multiple off-site locations throughout the workday. After they arrive at the warehouse and begin their work, they are entitled to compensation for the travel time required to get from one job site to another.

In some instances, an employee may travel a long distance to a job site and return home within the same day. While the employer will pay them for this travel time, they can deduct what would’ve been the normal standard commute time of that employee.

Overnight Travel

When an employee travels overnight for work, the employer must pay for time spent traveling (as a passenger) if done during regular work hours. For example, Katie typically works from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. If she is flying for work from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM, Katie will only be compensated from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

However, if Katie is working on a report while on her flight from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM, she will be compensated beyond 5:00 PM. This is considered working time since the report is for Katie’s employer.

An exception – if Katie drove at the direction of her employer, instead of traveling as a passenger, her employer must pay for all of her time driving, regardless of her normal work hours.

Any Work Time

It’s safe to assume that if employees are working in or outside of their regular work schedule, you should pay them. Here’s a more detailed look at the FLSA regulations.

Type of TravelPaidUnpaid
Ordinary home-to-work commute
Emergency home-to-work situation
One-day home-to-work commute to another city
Travel all in a day’s work
Driving required by the employer
Multiple-day travel during work hours
Multiple-day travel outside of work hours (if driving at the direction of employer)
Multiple-day travel outside of work hours (employee is a passenger)
Work performed while traveling
Travel Time Pay Scenarios (table adapted from SHRM)

Travel Pay and Best Business Practices

Protect your dream with best business practices. In addition to federal laws, be mindful of your state laws. According to SHRM, “Some states have travel-time laws that are more generous than the federal FLSA.” 

Are you convinced now you need to pay travel time but unsure how to do it? Tracking your employees’ travel time is easy, and we can help. Your employees clock in and clock out of different jobs throughout the day with our time-tracking system, and travel time cards are automatically created. The 17-second clock-in keeps you compliant and the employee labor lawyers away from your door.

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*Consult your trusted HR professional for legal advice on travel pay questions.