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Most of my organization's employees park at the office, but there aren't enough spots for everyone. The company has an overflow lot 10 minutes from the building where about 20% of the employees are required to park. The company provides a shuttle to and from the office.

My question is: When should an hourly employee be considered "clocked in" and "clocked out"? When they arrive at the overflow lot? When they get on the shuttle? Or when they get to their desk?

Some relevant details:

  • Parking is not 'first come, first serve', some employees are disallowed from parking in the main lot.
  • The shuttle runs continuously; there are no set times for arrival or departure. Arriving at the lot as the shuttle is leaving means a 20 minute wait. Consequently, if an employee must be at his desk at 9:00 AM, they must get to the lot by 8:30 AM.
  • The office is in a suburban area without easy access to public transportation; I am not aware of anyone who walks/bikes/gets to work without a car.


  • The office is in New Jersey, USA.
  • Parking assignment doesn't correlate to position in the company or seniority.
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What state are you in? –  Cirdec Mar 27 at 13:18
@Cirdec Not necessarily any! There are people outside the USA, you know. –  David Richerby Mar 27 at 16:31
I'm in New South Wales. Why do you ask? –  Mσᶎ Mar 28 at 4:17
@RamchandraApte Many do, yes. But asking which state somebody is in suggests you already know (or, more likely, have made assumptions about) the more important question, "Which country are you in?" For example, it assumes that the OP is in a country where those units are called "states", rather than, say, "provinces" or "territories". –  David Richerby Mar 28 at 12:54
@Cirdec New Jersey –  Obviously_Anon Mar 28 at 14:51

6 Answers 6

up vote 22 down vote accepted

If you live in the United States, the 11th Circuit Court ruled in Bonilla v. Baker Concrete that such time need not be compensated under 29 USC §254(a) (the Portal-to-Portal Act). An appeal to the Supreme Court was denied. This has been applied in much more egregious cases where the workers were compelled to spend over 3 hours travelling.

There is a similar case concerning workers being forced to wait in a security line at Amazon (Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk) that has been accepted by the Supreme Court, so it's possible the interpretation of the law could change.

Nonetheless, right now you cannot legally force the company to clock the time. Of course, as other answers point out, your employer is by no means required to use the law as a bludgeon against you. Perhaps you can work something out.

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+1 for Bonilla vs Baker Concrete. Very interesting document, even though I'm not American, and very interesting links in your answer more generally. I agree with the construct of your answer: what is legal or not, and what could still be done although not mandatory by the law. –  Arlaud Pierre Mar 27 at 11:04
This was most useful! Though my question didn't ask for it explicitly, I guess I was really looking for a legal precedent. –  Obviously_Anon Mar 28 at 15:57

As with many things in the working world, it depends on when your manager says you should clock in above all, and then what the company policy says.

Commute Time and Pay

Let's say I'm working hourly at office in A-Town. The company's lease is going to expire and they decide to move the office to B-Town. A-Town was a 15 minute commute for me. B-Town is a 45 minute commute. Do I get to bill the company for the additional 60 minutes a day I spend commuting because of the change?

Think of the commuting situation as a 'perk'. Part of the cost-benefit analysis you do for any job should be how long it actually takes you to get to your desk. This is a great question to ask in interviews before you decide to take the job as it can greatly change how you value the job offer.

Negotiating Poor Conditions

When you have poor commuting conditions, the best you can hope for is to negotiate better pay to make up for the poor commuting conditions, or some other perk to mitigate that drawback.

Is your issue that you hate waiting for the shuttle? Then try to negotiate a parking space in the main lot. Do you care more about the potential 20 minutes you may wait for the shuttle? Adjust your hourly rate so that for 480 minutes (8 hours) in the office, you are getting paid for 520 minutes (including the shuttle time).

If you are on a contract with regular renewal, this may be difficult to negotiate mid-stream, but is something to consider moving forward or the next time you get a job with similar conditions.

Talk to your Manager

If you are not at a point where you can negotiate, I suggest you talk with your manager. If your company is not recording your time automatically (punch cards, computer on-off time, badged in/out of the front door, etc.), then the final say over how your time gets logged will likely fall to your manager. Even if the official rule is, "Only log time that the employee is at their workstation" or something of the sort, your manager may be able to grease the wheels of justice to something more amenable to you.

For instance:

Hey boss, I've always been clocking my time from the time I get to my desk until the time I leave it. Since I park in the satellite lot, and am at the mercy of the shuttle as to when I show up. Even though I get my work done by the end of the day, because of that shuttle I have to stick around another 15-30 minutes to get the same pay because of the shuttle. Any chance you would be okay with me rounding up my time worked so long as I get the job done?

Assuming everything you say is true, and you've been doing a good job, your boss may be more interested in keeping you happy than in enforcing the letter of the law. At the end of the day though, you should go by whatever he says, which means living at the mercy of the shuttle if he says it's necessary until you have a chance to negotiate the terms of your employment.

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"or some other perk to mitigate that drawback" - Yes, like telecommuting. –  aroth Mar 27 at 1:35
If it's impossible to be paid for time spent waiting for the shuttle, an extreme "hack" might be to bring a bike on a rack on your car (or a folding bicyle) and ride it from the overflow lot to the office building whenever waiting for the shuttle would take too long. @Moz's comment below says something similar –  Jayraj Mar 27 at 19:26
Thanks jmac! Luckily I don't have to worry about the shuttle; I posted the question as a response to hearing both sides of the argument from two co-workers. I'll make sure that I bring this to her attention, I'm sure she'll find it useful. –  Obviously_Anon Mar 28 at 16:11

You should check your company's policy, but typically you'd not clock in until you are at work and ready to work. If getting to the lot at 830 is the only way to ensure you can get the shuttle and arrive on time, that's what you should plan to do. It doesn't seem this would be any different than taking a public bus to your office.

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@Andy The bus analogy is broken. Obviously getting to work from home isn't paid time. But the time in question is spent between two places that his job (more or less) requires him to be. Instead of a shuttle, let's call it a hypothetical timed door. When he arrives at the office he has to stand at the door for 10 to 30 minutes before he's allowed in the building. Should he be paid for that? –  Joe Cullinan Mar 27 at 0:14
@Andy: I used to work for a bank that had a tedious entry process. Our day started when we hit the first security door (about 10 minutes from my desk), and I was considered "at work" until I left through that door. That seems more reasonable to me than "turn up at this bus stop and we will eventually get you to the workplace". Back when I worked in the building industry those buses were common and we were paid to wait (we got to "site", a 10 hectare development, then were shuffled round inside it) –  Mσᶎ Mar 27 at 0:17

When should an hourly employee be considered "clocked in" and "clocked out"? When they arrive at the overflow lot? When they get on the shuttle? Or when they get to their desk?

In general, employees "clock in" when they are ready to start working. In your case, this means "when they get to their desk".

The phrase "clock in" derives from the time when employees had their arrival time noted in a ledger. Later devices like punch cards stamped the arrival time on their record. In both cases, it was their arrival at their place of work in a condition ready to begin work (and thus to start being paid for their labor).

How you arrive at your desk is up to you. You could choose to walk to work, you could choose to drive in and use the shuttle. You might live next door to the building and have a 2-minute "commute" or you might choose to live 2 hours away and have a 3-hour commute. Most companies don't pay for your commute time.

Think of it this way - if you live next door, and I live 2 hours away, should I have a 4-hour workday and you have an 8-hour workday - both at the same daily pay rate? You are paid for your work time, not for the time you spend getting to your desk.

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But those are choices you make. The difference here is that the company has made the decision by requiring him to park in the overflow carpark whereas if they parked him in the main carpark he would not have that delay. –  Tim B Mar 28 at 13:15
You use the term 'ready to start working', but then equate it to 'when I get to my desk'. These are not the same in my mind. I'm ready to start working when I drive past the main building on the way to the overflow. By the time the shuttle picks me up I've been ready to work for 20-30 minutes. By the time I get to my desk I've been ready to work for the better part of an hour. But I can't because I'm waiting on the shuttle at the company's convenience. –  Obviously_Anon Mar 28 at 15:07

I am admittedly neither an expert nor a lawyer so cannot tell you for sure how this works in the general case, but in my most recent two employers the rules have been the same. If you are travelling from off site into work you are not paid, however you are paid for travelling between sites owned and run by the employer.

I suppose it is then a matter of interpretation as to if you are simply being provided a service by your employer (a free bus in) or if your employer requires you to enter one work owned site and then travel to another in the course of your working day. In the later case most employers will pay you, but the earlier is a lot more fuzzy.

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@JoeStrazzere That depends on the country. Which is indeed why I asked. –  Vality Mar 27 at 12:51
@JoeStrazzere It is not unheard of for countries to implement rules that employees performing equal work on equal contracts must be compensated equally. Better parking is unarguably a benefit and thus part of an employees compensation. –  Vality Mar 27 at 12:52
@Chad For example, in the UK, benefits including a convenient parking space are considered to be part of an employees pay. Thusly if parking near the office is of greater worth the employee is in effect being paid more (This is described under the equality act 2010). This means that the employee is potentially being pay discriminated against if another 'comparison' employee who differs under any of the protected characteristics are 'paid more' with a more valuable benefit (parking space). Thus this could be discrimination. However I want to know what country this is in to add a correct ref. –  Vality Mar 27 at 14:45
@JoeStrazzere The question neither mentions a country in the tags or text. Neither does the askers profile specify where they live. Unless I missed something no country is specified at all. Though if I have indeed missed something please correct me. –  Vality Mar 27 at 16:16
See edits to question and revise, please. –  Shog9 Mar 29 at 0:39

A good way to describe this might be that it is "at the company's convenience" for you to park in the remote lot, in that you're required to park there instead of in the main lot. That alone sounds like argument that you should be able to get to the lot at your prescribed time (ie, 9am), and then take the slow shuttle bus across town if that is what your company wants you to do all day. Of course, I would talk to your manager about this first.

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