In the new age of full and partial remote work, you might be asking whether you are entitled to pay for your travel time commuting from your home office to your employer’s brick and mortar office. The answer depends. The U.S. Department of Labor recently addressed this issue in a letter in which it opined that if an employee starts his/her work at one location (i.e. home) and then commutes to another work location (i.e. employer’s office) without being free to handle personal matters when traveling between work sites, then arguably the employee is entitled to compensation for the commute time.
Travel-Time: Are You “Working” While Driving?
The Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that controls wage and hour matters, requires an employer to pay an employee for every hour that the employee is “working.” There is well established law that generally an employee’s commute to and from work each day is not compensable as work time. However, when employees travel from work site to work site without any opportunity for personal matters in between, such time is typically compensable.
What happens when you start your workday at home and leave to travel to the home office, but have to tend to personal matters during the commute time? The DOL says it is not compensable. For example, if an employee begins working remotely at home for a few hours, but then has to go to a doctor appointment or pick up kids from school before driving to the employer’s work site, the employee is not entitled to be paid for the commute time. This is because an employee is free to do what they please during that travel time—go to an appointment, run errands, and pick up kids from school, etcetera.
Based on the DOL’s analysis, on the other hand, if the employee starts working remotely at home, then leaves to commute to the office to finish performing work duties, this may be compensable. Let’s say you work from home for a few hours, but have to run to the office to check and process mail or make copies or do filing. In this situation, the travel time arguably is compensable because the employee is not free to attend to his or her own personal matters in between the time commuting from home to work and promptly resumes work once at the office.
A Square Peg In A Round Hole
DOL guidance highlights that the new types of remote working arrangements that have arisen because of the pandemic do not squarely fit into prior understandings of “on the job.” For example, sometimes an employee is not merely driving to work to begin the workday, because earlier in the day they already began the workday at home. In these situations, the DOL draws the line in the sand. If an employee has a sufficient gap of time for personal activities between job duties, then no compensation for time spent commuting.
If you have questions about whether your work-related travel time is compensable, consult with experienced employment attorneys to make sure you are paid properly .