Normal travel from home to work is not work time. This
is true whether the employee works at a fixed location or at different
jobsites (29 CFR 785.35). Commuting includes the time spent walking from the parking lot
to the worksite. If an employee has to report to a central meeting
site to pick up equipment, supplies, or coworkers, or to get instructions, work time starts
at that location.
When an employee has gone home after completing his or
her day's work and is subsequently called out at night to travel 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,
the Wage and Hour Division has not addressed whether travel to and
from the 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.
The Portal to Portal Act provides that travel between
home and work in a company-owned vehicle is not paid work time as
long as the travel is within the normal commuting area for the employer's
business, and the use of the vehicle is subject to an agreement between
the employer and the employee or the employee's representative (29 USC 254(a)). This
exception also applies to time spent in activities incidental to the
use of the vehicle for commuting (such as stopping for gas).
According to Chapter 31 of the DOL Field Operations Handbook,
in certain situations an employee is responsible for a vehicle, its
equipment, and having it at the worksite at a proper time. If the
employer permits the employee to drive the vehicle to and from work
for the employee's benefit, this driving time would not be considered
compensable travel time. This includes when the employee elects to
transport other employees to and from work in the vehicle. Where the
vehicle is also used for emergency calls outside regular working hours,
a determination would have to be made as to whether the vehicle was
being used primarily for the benefit of the employer or the employee.
The frequency of the emergency calls would be one factor considered.
According to a DOL Opinion Letter, commuting time in the employer's vehicle is not
paid work time if:
Commuting in the employer's vehicle is strictly voluntary
and not a condition of employment;
The vehicle involved is the type of vehicle that would
normally be used for commuting, such as a bus, 10-wheel dump truck,
trailer/tractor rig, truck-mounted crane, or oil well drilling equipment;
The employee incurs no costs for driving the employer's
vehicle or parking it at the employee's home or elsewhere; and
The worksites are within the normal commuting area of the
When an employee who regularly works at a fixed location
in one city is given a special one-day assignment in another city,
much of the time spent traveling is work time and must be compensated.
For example, an employee who works in Washington, D.C., with regular
work hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is given a special assignment in
New York City, with instruction to leave Washington at 8 a.m. She
arrives in New York at noon, ready for work. The special assignment
is completed at 3 p.m., and the employee arrives back in Washington
at 7 p.m. 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
Employers may agree to pay for ordinary commuting time.
However, such time does not have to be counted as hours worked and
is not subject to the minimum wage and overtime requirements.
Homeworkers must be paid for time spent traveling to
and from the distribution point to pick up or deliver the homeworker's
own work or the work of other homeworkers. Where the travel includes
time spent in personal activities, such as shopping or going to the
post office, this personal travel time need not be included in counting
the hours worked.