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August 16, 2011
Employers Should Understand Nuances Between California, Federal Travel Pay Laws

In an Employer Resource Institute webinar titled "Travel Pay in California: Proven Strategies for Avoiding Devastating Wage/Hour Lawsuits," Mary E. Wright, Esq., discussed travel pay issues for non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California law.

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The core legal issue on travel time is whether time spent traveling by the employee is compensable. There are many different circumstances to consider when answering that question:

  • Travel during the workday
  • Travel at the beginning/end of the workday
  • Employees with no fixed worksite
  • Employees who travel to distance workplaces on special assignments
  • One-day out of town, overnight assignments
  • Travel in company-owned vehicles
In California, "travel time" is compensable if an employee is "subject to the control" of his or her employer. Under the FLSA, the standard is whether the employee's time is primarily for the benefit of the employer.

Here are a few other points to keep in mind when comparing federal and California law on travel pay:

  • When both federal and state laws exist on a specific topic, the law which is more favorable to the employee will govern.
  • For your California employees, California law will typically apply in most (if not all) situations.
  • Federal law has more nuances for travel pay situations.
  • California law favors the payment of travel time to employees in most situations.

Mary E. Wright, Esq., is general counsel in the San Francisco offices of the nationwide law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC. Ogletree Deakins is one of America's largest law firms that focuses its practice exclusively in the arena of labor and employment law. Mary advises employers of all sizes in all areas of the employer-employee relationship. Also, she defends employers before federal and state courts and agencies, handling all types of employment cases. She is a very frequent speaker and writer on human resource issues, and she has been named a Northern California "Super Lawyer" for three years. She earned her law degree from the University of San Francisco. She can be contacted at

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