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Paying Nonexempt Employees for Travel Time to Seminars or Training

Q: When do employers have to pay nonexempt employees for time spent traveling to a seminar or a training session? Does it make a difference if the employee spends the night?

[Creating HR Policies or Employee Handbook?]

A: Nonexempt employees (those employees covered by the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA")) must be paid for all time considered working time. Whether travel time is counted as working time depends on when the travel takes place and what kind of travel is involved.

According to the FLSA regulations, the time spent by a nonexempt employee commuting from home to work is not considered working time and does not have to be paid. However, if a nonexempt employee travels to a seminar or training session that lasts for the day, the employee must be paid for all time spent traveling to the seminar, as well as all time spent at the seminar. The employee is considered to be on a special assignment performed for the employer’s benefit. For example, if a nonexempt employee travels two hours to a seminar, attends the seminar for eight hours, and then drives home for two hours, the employer would have to pay for the eight hours at the seminar and the four hours of travel time. The employer may deduct from the total working time the employee’s normal commute time and any meal period not spent performing work or in the seminar.

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If a nonexempt employee travels to a seminar and leaves the day before the seminar begins, the employer only has to pay for travel time that cuts across the employee’s regular workday. In this case, the employee is simply substituting travel for other work duties. Thus, if the employee normally works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and he leaves for the seminar at 4 p.m., he is only entitled to be paid for one hour of travel time, even if he travels until 9 p.m. Travel time on nonworking days is also considered work time if conducted during normal work hours. For example, if the same employee travels on a Saturday, he must be paid for any travel time between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The employer may deduct normal meal periods from the travel time. In addition, travel during nonwork hours may be considered work time if the employee is actually performing work while traveling.

 

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