Drive time to office refers to the time spent going out during work hours for work ends. It’s not the time consumed going to and from work. That’s commuting, and companies don’t have to compensate for that.
Many companies mistakenly think that since you don’t have to pay workers for drive time to and from office; you don’t have to pay them while they are driving at all. It is as though driving anyplace for work is all one long commute. This is a misconception. And a very prevalent one too.
One of the top 10 wage and hour slips companies make is related to drive time. Some companies factor drive time out of overtime estimates. Others don’t pay workers for drive time at all. Neither is the right and legal method.
Workers who travel from worksite to field site during a typical day’s work must be paid for that time. Nevertheless, they do not need to be paid when they go from the last job site, under most conditions.
Examples of Paid Travel Time
- Doing work while traveling in an airplane
- Doing work on a van or light-rail on the way to work
- Picking up work supplies at the start of the day and then riding to the job site (Pay should start from the time they pick up the stuff)
- Work tasks like driving to the bank, picking up things, etc.
- Driving from one job site to another
Examples of Paid Commute Time – Rare Exceptions
While most of the time driving from home to work is not compensable, there are some exemptions. These include:
- Home to work in emergencies
- Home to work on a particular one-day task in another city
- Work accomplished while commuting
Additionally, California implements another exception. Workers in California who must take their employer’s transit should be paid for the time they spend waiting for and taking that transportation. An example might be winery or ski resort workers who have to park far away and wait for an organization bus to pick them up. They should be paid for that time.
FLSA Notes on Drive Time
This is how the commute is defined in the FLSA:
There are some “grey areas” about when the FLSA requires travel time to be treated as working time. However, as a general rule, “home to work” and “work to home” travel time is not work time, and this is true even if the “commute” is longer than normal, to or from a different worksite than usual, or the employee uses a company vehicle for the trips. This assumes that the employee is performing no other work activities while commuting.
This is how travel time is defined in the FLSA:
Time spent by an employee writing a report is work time, even if it happens to occur while the employee is riding on a bus (or airplane) to or from work. Travel time which is “all in a day’s work” is work time. Usually, this means that travel time is work time if it occurs between when the employee first arrives at the first work site and before the employee leaves the last work site at the end of the workday.
The first job site in the area where the worker first performs work activities. For instance, an agent who travels to the office picks up supplies, then goes to a work site to complete the day’s events is working from the time she/he first comes at the office. Picking up the stuff needed to do the day’s events is the first job activity of the day, and hence the office is the first job site of the day.
Tracking Different Rates of Pay for Travel Time
Companies are free to fix a lower pay rate for a driving time as long as it is at or above least wage. Tracking various pay rates for a single employee is difficult. That is why employing a time tracking service that accommodates variable rates is helpful for employees who travel.