When does work time begin and end when traveling, excluding travel time to and from local office?

September 17, 2015
When does work time begin and end when traveling, excluding travel time to and from local office?

While your specific state may have its own regulations, the Department of Labor (DOL) has guidelines for determining which parts of time spent traveling are considered working hours. Here are a number of the key issues:

Day Trips

According to the DOL, for one-day business trips, the employee is compensated for all of their time spent traveling between work sites, but you may subtract time they spend commuting” to the airport, bus stand, or train station they're departing from.

Overnight Trips

For multiple day business trips, the same rules apply with one exception. While all time spent working must be paid, compensable transit time may be limited to hours that fall within an employee's normal working hours. Please note that state laws vary significantly from this standard.

For example, if an employee who generally works from 9AM to 5PM were to catch a 3PM flight to Europe, 2 of those hours (from 3-5) are compensable. Working hours apply to all days–including weekends–even if the employee doesn't normally work on weekends.

Regarding Time Zones

If an employee's travel will take them through 2 or more time zones, the time from the starting point of their trip should be used to determine their compensable hours.

State Laws

Be sure to check your state's laws regarding additional stipulations for employee travel time.

For instance, in California employees traveling for business reasons need to be compensated for a larger amount of time, including their commute to the airport, or bus station, as well as their time spent waiting to purchase tickets, check baggage, or boarding.

Final Tips

Another great resource is the federal mileage reimbursement standard, which summarizes optional reimbursement rates for travel by car.

Helpful Links:

Paying Employees Business Travel - nolo.com - An easily understood guide to calculating compensable travel hours

Creditable Travel Time - law.Cornell.edu - List of laws defining creditable travel time

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