Federal Laws May Allow Non-exempt Employees to Receive Travel Time Pay for Their Commute.
COVID-19 has changed the lives of people around the globe. One of the most prevalent changes is the way people, particularly Americans, work. Businesses have found ways to allow people to work from home. The home has become a new office space.
As a result, when a person must go into the office, it changes the definition of the commute to work. Since people are now working from home, is the commute to the office for a meeting or other work-related event subject to travel time pay for hourly employees?
The short answer is “yes.” However, this scenario is not the only time you can get paid wages for your commute. Federal law provides guidelines in which your commute should receive travel time pay. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Commute vs. Workday Travel Time?
The law makes a very clear distinction between a commute and workday travel. A commute is considered the travel time to get from your home, hotel room, or other permanent or temporary residence places to your office (permanent or temporary).
Travel time, however, is any time your job requires you to drive to a work-related event or run a work-related errand during working hours. Because you are on company time and doing work for the company, you should receive travel time pay, as per wage and hour laws.
Of course, there are exceptions to what constitutes a commute and what constitutes travel time. For instance, if your boss tells you to travel to a temporary work location from home, part of that commute may constitute travel time.
On the other hand, you may need to stop at a bakery or store on the way to work. If you are not going out of your way or already clocked in, this travel time is part of your commute.
When Do wage and Hour Laws Say You Must Get Paid for Your Commute?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says a non-exempt employee is an hourly employee. These employees receive pay for the hours they work. They also receive overtime pay of at least 1.5 times their hourly rate for hours worked over 40 within one week.
The same law defines when an employee should receive pay for time spent traveling. Under the law, non-exempt employees may receive compensation for travel time under the following conditions:
- Travel to and from meetings during the workday
- Travel to and from different work sites as part of daily work activities
- Travel to run to the store or conduct other errands for business purposes during working hours
- Out of state travel during working hours
- Excessive commute times to a temporary office
The FLSA does not specify what “excessive” means. Excessive time could mean anything over the amount of time of your normal commute. However, it may also mean the commute should be an hour or longer over your normal commute. Employers should consult with an attorney to determine the best practices under the law.
How Has Coronavirus Redefined the Commute from Home to the Office?
As discussed, your commute from home to the office on a normal workday is typically not paid travel time. However, Coronavirus has redefined the workplace.
Now, many people work from home. Therefore, they rarely step foot in the office. Their home is their new office.
The Department of Labor suggests that if your home is your primary workplace, paid travel time is any travel during working hours for business. Any travel includes travel into the office for a meeting or any other special purpose.
Since you are now using your home as your primary workplace, you are not commuting to the office. Instead, you are utilizing your hours to travel to a work-related meeting. Any work-related meeting during normal business hours receives paid travel time as well as paid time spent at the meeting.
How Do You Know If You Can Get Paid for Your Commute?
Whether you can get paid wages for your commute depends on whether you typically work from home. If you typically work from home, then your commute to the office is a special circumstance. You are driving for a meeting that happens to be at your company office. Therefore, you may be eligible to get paid for your commute.
However, if you rarely work from home, driving into the office is part of your personal time and is not eligible for travel time pay.
To learn more about your rights to compensation for your commute and other eligible travel time, contact the experienced wage and hour lawyer at the Derek Smith Law Group. The Derek Smith Law Group has helped numerous clients receive the compensation they deserve for all hours they work. Call us today at 800.807.2209 and schedule your free consultation.
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