How to properly pay for travel time can be very confusing. Whether or not an employer needs to compensate a non-exempt employee for travel time depends much on the type of travel involved. To maintain compliance with federal laws, keep in mind the following four rules-of-thumb regarding employee travel:
The Portal-to-Portal Travel rule includes an employee’s regular home-to-work and work-to-home travel at the beginning and end of a single workday. Unless the employer established a workplace policy offering pay for such travel, an employer does not need to pay an employee for regular home-to-work and work-to-home travel.
The Travel between Worksites rule involves travel within a single workday between multiple worksites. An employer is required to pay an employee for travel time from one worksite to another during a day’s work if the employee must travel to perform the day’s work. An example would be tow truck drivers traveling to different locations to service vehicles during the day.
The Special, One-Day Assignment rule applies when an employer requires an employee (usually working at one location) to report to a different worksite for the workday which thus may entail a longer than usual travel situation. For example, Employee X travels to another office in a city 50 miles away for a training workshop, and the employee returned home the same day without an overnight stay. In turn, this employee generally should be paid for the travel time because the one-day assignment was to a location beyond the employee’s normal commute.
The Overnight Travel rule applies whenever travel requires the employee to stay overnight and away from his or her home. In such situations, the time an employee spends traveling during his or her regular work hours must be compensated, even on non-workdays like weekends. An employer, however, does not have to pay for travel time occurring outside of the employee’s regular work hours, unless the employee is required to drive or performs work during that time.