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Get it Right! When is Work-Related Travel Time Compensable for Hourly Paid Employees?

Posted by: Karen Booher on March 12th, 2024

Does your company know all the rules relating to compensating employees for work-related travel time for your hourly paid employees? These also apply to a temporary/contract employee assigned to your company from a staffing agency.

Home-to-Work Travel

An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to their home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home-to-work travel, which is not compensated work time.

Travel All Within the Day’s Work

Time spent by an employee traveling as part of their principal activity, such as traveling from one office (or job site) to another during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.

Home-to-Work on a Special One-Day Assignment in Another City

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 traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct the time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site, if it is less.

Example: a Denver employee that normally spends ½ hour traveling from their home to work is required to attend a meeting in Pueblo. They spend two hours traveling from their home to Pueblo. Thus, the employee is entitled to 1 ½ hours (2 hours less ½ hour normal home-to-work time) pay for the trip to Pueblo, and also for the return trip home.

Travel Away from Home Community

Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is considered as travel away from home. The time is not only hours worked on the regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on non-working days. The Department of Labor does not consider as hours worked that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.

Example: An employee who is regularly scheduled to work from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday – Friday, is required to leave on a Sunday at 3:00 PM to travel to an assignment in another state. The employee, who travels via airplane, arrives at the destination at 8:00 PM on Sunday. The employee is entitled to pay for 3 hours (3:00 PM – 6:00 PM) since it cuts across their normal work hours but is not entitled to compensation for traveling between 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM because it is outside of their regular hours. If the employee completes their assignment at 6:00 PM on Friday and flies home that evening, none of the travel time would be considered as hours worked. But, if the employee traveled home on Saturday between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM, the entire travel time would be hours worked.

Driving Time

Time spent driving a vehicle (either owned by the employee, the employer, or a third party) at the direction of the employer transporting supplies, tools, equipment, or other employees is generally considered hours worked and must be paid. Employers may decide to use an exempt employee to perform the driving to avoid having to pay for this time.

If employers use nonexempt employees to perform the driving, they may establish a different rate for the driving from the employee’s normal rate of pay. For example, if you have an equipment operator who is normally paid $30.00 per hour, you could establish a driving rate of $20.00 per hour and thus reduce the cost for the driving time. The driving rate must be at least the minimum wage. However, if you do this, both the driving time and other time must be counted when determining overtime hours and overtime will need to be computed on the weighted average rate, making for a more complicated situation.

Riding Time

Time spent by an employee in travel, as part of their principal activity, such as travel from one office (or job site) to another during the workday must be counted as hours worked. When an employee is required to report to a meeting place to receive instructions or to perform other work there, or to pick up and to carry equipment, the travel from the designated place to the workplace is part of the day’s work and must be counted as hours worked regardless of contract, custom, or practice. If an employee normally finishes their work on the premises at 5:00 PM and is sent to another job, which they finish at 8:00 PM and are then required to return to their employer’s premises, arriving at 9:00 PM, all of the time is working time. However, if the employee goes home instead of returning to their employer’s premises, the travel after 8:00 PM is home-to-work travel and is not compensable as hours worked.

The operative issue with regard to riding time is whether the employee is required to report to a meeting place and whether the employee performs any work (i.e., receiving work instructions, loading vehicles, etc.) prior to riding to the job site. If the employer tells the employees that they may come to the meeting place and ride a company-provided vehicle to the job site and the employee performs no work prior to arrival at the job site then the riding time is not hours worked. Conversely, if the employee is required to report to the company facility or performs any work while at the meeting place, then the riding time becomes hours worked that must be paid.

To avoid having to pay for the riding time, employers should ensure that the supervisors do not allow employees to perform any work before riding to the job site. Further, they should make sure that the employee does not perform any work (such as unloading vehicles) when they return to the facility at the end of the workday for the return riding time to not be compensable.


ASA Staffing Today, 3/4/2024. “On the Road Again: When is Traveling for Work Compensable?”, by Al Vreeland – Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, P.C., February 19, 2024.

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