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August 21, 2010
Compensable Driving and Commuting Time

In a BLR webinar entitled "Mileage/Commuting Expenses: How to Avoid Big Mistakes With These Employee Expenses," Mark E. Tabakman, Esq., partner in the nationwide law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP and Stacy Wade, Ph.D., CPA, assistant professor of accounting at Western Kentucky University, explained that work time (i.e., compensable time) does include the following:

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  • Time spent driving to another location for a special assignment
  • Substantial driving for an emergency outside the normal working hours
  • Time spent driving during regular work hours as part of the employee's principal job duties

When an employee has gone home after completing his or her day's work and is subsequently called out at night to drive a substantial distance to perform an emergency job for one of the employer's customers, all time spent traveling is work time (29 CFR 785.36). However, there's some wiggle room in terms of whether driving to and from the employee's regular workplace in an emergency after hours is work time.

Remember: Travel time wages paid by an employer for calling an employee back to work must be included in the calculations of hours worked for purposes of paying overtime.

If an employee reports to a central location to pick up equipment before proceeding to his or her assigned worksite, the time spent driving or commuting to the central location is not work time.

However, work time then starts at that location -- so, any time spent driving or commuting to the assigned worksite from that central location is work time.

Overnight driving or traveling away from home is work time when it cuts across the employee's normal workday and/or requires the employee to work on weekends or days when he or she would not otherwise be required to work.

Regular meal periods and time spent sleeping or in other leisure activities while driving is not work time, and the employer does not have to pay the employee for this time.

Mark E. Tabakman, Esq., is a partner in the nationwide law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP ( He advises clients throughout the country on all aspects of labor relations and employment law, as well as the development of corporate employment policies. Stacy Wade, Ph.D., CPA, is assistant professor of accounting at Western Kentucky University ( She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in financial accounting and taxation.

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