From time to time, there are various questions that keep recurring in the labor & employment law area.  One of them is in the area of travel time for non-exempt employees.

(For exempt employees, they get paid a fixed salary no matter how much time they work or travel.)

What if you commute on a cable car?

The easiest question to answer is whether an employee needs to be paid for the time he or she spends going to and from work each day. The answer is plainly no.  Commuting time  — even if it snows on the way home — is not compensable.

(Of course, the law being what it is, there are some notable exceptions. For example, if the employer requires, as a job requirement, that a large company truck, be taken by employee home, that might change the equation in some instances. Also, if the employee does work at home to start the day, the “commute” might simply be an extension of the workday which had already begun.)

And what happens if the employee doesn’t go into the home office first, but goes directly to a client or another office?

The U.S. Department of Labor has guidance as follows:

An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.

And what if the employee is travelling away from home on a business trip? Here too, the USDOL’s guidance is instructive.

Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee’s workday. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days. As an enforcement policy the Division will not consider as work time that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.

There is, of course, lots more nuance to this law.  My former colleagues who run the Hospitality Labor & Employment Law Blog had a very good post on the subject earlier this year if you’re interested.