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August 21, 2010
Compensation Rules for Driving or Commuting to Off-Site Assignments

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 these basic wage and hour rules for driving/commuting to an offsite assignment:

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  • If you have employees who commute regularly to a fixed location in one city, but to whom you give a special one-day assignment in another city, much of the time spent driving or commuting in that case is work time and must be compensation.
  • Such travel is not regarded as ordinary home-to-work travel and must be compensated. It was performed for the employer's benefit and at its special request to meet the needs of a particular and unusual assignment. Therefore, it would qualify as an integral part of the principal activity that the employee was hired to perform.
  • All the time involved, however, need not be counted. Except for the special assignment, the employee would have had to report to her regular worksite. The travel time between her home and the railroad station need not be compensated. Also, the usual mealtime need not be paid (29 CFR 785.37).

In some situations, employers may actually agree to pay employees for their ordinary commuting.

However, this time does not have to be counted as hours worked, nor is it subject to minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Mark E. Tabakman, Esq., is a partner in the nationwide law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP (www.wagehourlaw.foxrothschild.com). 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 (www.wku.edu). She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in financial accounting and taxation.

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