DOL Issues Guidance Regarding Compensable Time for Time Spent Traveling
The Department of Labor closed probably one of the most challenging years in the labor and employment law world by issuing an opinion letter regarding travel pay for days where employees’ time is split between working in the office and at home. Essentially, the opinion letter opines that the FLSA does not require employers to pay employees for time spent traveling on days the employees split their workdays between working in the office and at home, taking care of personal tasks in between. Typically, this applies to non-exempt employees.
The letter was premised on two hypothetical facts patterns, containing the following facts:
- Employee works at the workplace in the morning.
- In the afternoon, the employee leaves the office to attend a parent-teacher conference.
- After the parent-teacher conference, the employee resumes work at her home office.
- In total, the employee spends about an hour traveling to and from the school meeting.
- Employee logs in from home for one hour.
- Employee then attends a doctor’s appointment.
- Employee leaves doctor’s appointment and drives to his work office.
In both of these situations, the employee’s travel time was non-compensable based on the Continuous Workday Doctrine. While the results seem rather straightforward, let’s make sure we understand the Continuous Workday Doctrine.
Generally, under Continuous Workday Doctrine, the time between an employee’s commencement and completion of his or her principal activities on the same workday is considered compensable time. Conversely, time when an employee is completely relieved from his/her duties that are long enough the employee can effectively use the time for his/her own purposes are not compensable. Here are some general best practices on this topic:
- Non-exempt employees should track all their time worked whether they are working at home or the office, or any location where they are working. This will also help employers avoid off-the-clock work.
- Employers must pay all employees for any day or partial day worked. There are exceptions for employees on straight commission or piece-rate compensation.
- Commute time to work is generally non-compensable. Conversely, time spent traveling between worksites and clients is compensable as it is part of work day.
Wage-and-hour law is full of complexities. Seek legal counsel if you have some uncertainties or wish to know whether you are complying with applicable labor laws.
About the Author: Alejandro Pérez is a partner at Jaburg Wilk. Fully bilingual, Alejandro assists employers of all sizes with labor and employment law issues. In addition to representing clients in litigation, Alejandro provides advice and counsel on HR decisions; conducts sensitive workplace investigations; drafts and reviews employment policies, handbooks, and agreements; and trains workforces on a variety of aspects of employment law.
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