Under the FLSA, when must nonexempt employees be paid for travel time?

December 7, 2018


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations require employers to pay for travel time in some circumstances. Generally, time spent traveling is compensable, unless it is normal home-to-work commute time, or when travel requires an overnight stay and the time spent traveling as a passenger falls outside of the employee's normal work hours.

When pay is required, the time spent traveling is considered hours worked and must be included when determining overtime pay obligations. 

Type of Travel
​Not Compensable
​Home-to-work commute

​Travel to different worksites during the workday

​Travel to a different city, returning the same day

​Travel that requires an overnight stay

​          During regular work hours

​          Outside of regular work hours

​Driving that is required by the employer

Home-to-work travel. Normal commuting time to an employee's regular worksite is not treated as hours worked under the FLSA.

Home to work on a special one-day assignment in another city. When an employee must travel out of town for work but returns home the same day, all the time spent traveling during the day is compensable, regardless of the employee's regular work hours. However, an employer may deduct the time the employee would have spent commuting to his or her regular work location.

Travel that is all in a day's work. Time spent traveling to and from different worksites during the day is work time and must be paid.

Travel away from home. When travel requires an overnight stay, any time traveling as a passenger that falls within the employee's normal work hours is compensable, regardless of what day of the week the travel takes place. Time spent traveling to an airport terminal or train station is considered commute time and is not treated as hours worked, but the time spent waiting at the terminal until arrival at the destination is compensable when it falls during normal work hours.

For example, if Meg normally works Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and she is required to travel by plane on a Sunday for business in another state, her travel time on Sunday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. is compensable.

So, if Meg arrives at the airport on Sunday at 3 p.m. and at her destination at 8 p.m., the employer is required to pay her only from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the hours that correspond with her normally scheduled work hours.

Alternatively, if Meg drives herself or others at the direction of the employer rather than traveling as a passenger, all the time spent driving is compensable work time, regardless of Meg's normal work hours.

Driving at the direction of the employer. When employees are required to drive themselves or others, all driving time is compensable. However, when an employee is traveling to an overnight stay and has the option to use public transportation (i.e., airplane, train, bus, etc.) but chooses to drive his or her own vehicle instead, the employer can either choose to pay for all time spent traveling or pay only the travel time that occurs during normal work hours, regardless of what day of the week the employee travels (CFR 785.40). If an employee volunteers to drive others in his or her own vehicle to the overnight stay, an employee's time could be unpaid for those travel hours outside the normal work hours.

Worked performed while traveling. An employee must be paid for any time he or she is performing work. This includes time spent working during travel as a passenger that would otherwise be non-compensable.

For example, Meg normally works Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. She arrives at the airport on Sunday at 3 p.m. and at her destination at 8 p.m. Generally, the employer is required to pay her only from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; however, if Meg works on a presentation during her flight until 6:30 p.m., her employer would need to pay her from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Some states have travel-time laws that are more generous than the federal FLSA.  


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