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I was at a work conference last week that was supposed to go M-F. It ended a day early and I drove home Friday during the day instead of Saturday. When I got back in the office today, my manager told me that I'd have to use one of my unpaid time-off days for this, since they didn't get any value out of my day. Is this a reasonable request or something I should push back on? For what it's worth I got the hotel I was staying at to refund one night, so it ended up saving them some money. I feel like this should at least count for something.

I'm in the US, and I'm paid a salary, not hourly. Unpaid time-off days are a limited benefit (we get ~5 per year). I could probably also use one of my PTO days, but those are very limited at 10 per year and I already have plans for them.

edit: It was a 6-hour drive, so it took most of a work day. I'm supposed to be reimbursed for gas+tolls+wear and tear on my personal car, but according to my coworkers it takes a lot of pulling teeth to get them to actually write the check. That's probably best left to another question though.

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Travel away from home is legally work time, unless it was done outside of regular working hours, and you were a passenger (that is, you were not driving yourself).

If you have spent another 6 hours driving to the conference (presumably on a Sunday before), you should point to your manager that both trips are legally considered work time, and you should in fact be granted an additional PTO for traveling on a Sunday.

Let them read the DOL fact sheet and suggest they should at least drop the idea of you taking a day off on Friday.

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    Thank you for the factually correct answer and the DOL reference. Unfortunately, there often seems to be a lot of speculation about labor law in America when it comes to subjects like this, leading people to assume that there are no controls or regulations, or that companies can do whatever they want. Neither is true. What this employer has done is, in a very black and white sense, illegal. – dwizum Mar 10 at 12:43
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    It might be worth pointing out that this is a good time for resume-dusting-off. Pointing out that your boss is acting illegally can win you the battle but lose the war. And independent of whether this is legal or not, it's fundamentally unreasonable in the extreme, and that is a potential red flag against depending on this person in a long term work relationship. – msouth Mar 10 at 18:50
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    You definitely want to get the hell out of that company! Sheesh ... Don't let the door hit you in the butt as you leave. – Mike Robinson Mar 10 at 19:18
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    @MikeH you can't refuse to pay a salaried employee for a day they worked, so it seems applicable either way. – Kat Mar 11 at 0:22
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    @some_coder, DOL stands for "Department of Labor", the government agency dealing with labor laws. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Mar 11 at 13:18
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Is this a reasonable request or something I should push back on?

It's completely unreasonable to me. I would push back. And if that doesn't work, I might have a chat with HR to understand relevant company policy.

If it hadn't ended early, you still wouldn't have been in the office. So there is no difference in days worked in either case.

I think your manager is making no sense at all.

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    There are probably laws regarding this, never mind company policy. You might have to make HR/accounting do the understanding ;) – Mars Mar 10 at 7:06
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    @quarague Commute time is your own time, travel time is not. There is a difference. If it takes you 1 hour to commute each day to work, for example, that 1 hour is up to you to plan and your employer does not need to compensate you for it. But for a conference that takes 6 hours to travel to, that is not your responsibility. Your employer needs to compensate you for the 6 hours time that it takes and for the mileage if you drive your own car. – Brandin Mar 10 at 9:57
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    While it's unreasonable, I don't see what value this answer offers above the others. No actionable points, no relevant laws, nothing. Just a "common sense" point that's easy to upvote. – Matsemann Mar 10 at 10:50
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    @quarague I don't know the US labor law but I would be surprised if it is more employee friendly than German law get ready to be surprised! The law is very clear about what counts as travel time in situations like this. That said, many employers don't understand the law, or ignore it, and many employees will unfortunately tolerate that abuse, but that doesn't mean it's okay or not illegal. – dwizum Mar 10 at 12:45
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    @Matsemann The question asked was "Is this reasonable?" Joe's answer answers that question. – dkwarr87 Mar 10 at 15:35
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No. Time spent traveling for work should be paid time. Your manager's suggestion should be concerning not only to you but also for your organization.

You should, at minimum, alert another trusted leader in the organization to your manager's request. Additionally, you might consider discussing the situation with your manager to make sure he/she understands the situation, what you believe is the right, and agree on a path to resolving the issue.

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  • Thanks for your input. I'll prepare some talking points and discuss it with her tomorrow. – TurnpikeGuy Mar 10 at 1:16
  • @TurnpikeGuy I personally would be also preparing to pull teeth. – morbo Mar 10 at 1:18
  • What do you mean by that? – TurnpikeGuy Mar 10 at 1:19
  • @TurnpikeGuy Use the @ symbol to tag the person you want to reply to so they get a notification. But i'm pretty sure it means that management isn't going to want to reimburse you. – Shadowzee Mar 10 at 3:39
  • Situations like this are why it's very important to ask a lot of questions in an interview. You might not get truthful answers but the more you ask the better chance you have of seeing any red flags. – Rich Mar 10 at 4:02
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Tell them that you didn't get any value out of the day either.

Besides, they did get value out of it because you were at the conference. If you hadn't done the travel, you wouldn't have been at the conference.

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    If OP hadn't done the travel, OP would still be at the conference :) – gerrit Mar 10 at 9:43
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    If only I could get paid for all the days I didn't get any value from :) – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 10 at 10:00
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    @DmitryGrigoryev, Do you know the form number? I have 20 years to submit.. – null Mar 10 at 14:46
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You are paid in exchange for your free time.

The value that you bring to the company is not relevant to whether you should be paid (it is only relevant to whether the company want to keep working with you).

Whenever you use your time for the company rather than for yourself, it is time that the company should be paying you (including the time traveling to/from the conference that is not commuting)

Their argument is backward: instead of them not getting any value from your time, it is you who is spending your time on behalf of the company.

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Entirely unreasonable. The company sent you to the conference. Because of the company, you were many hours away from work on Friday morning. The company didn’t get any benefit from you on Friday, but that is due to the company’s decisions. It’s up to the company, not down to you, to make sure that your work is beneficial to the company or not.

And the company does benefit: If you hadn’t driven home on Friday, you would have driven home on Monday, and you wouldn’t have worked Friday or Monday.

(This doesn’t address the legality - just the fact that your manager tries to bamboozle you with seemingly good reason that fall apart when you look closer).

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    Why drive home on Monday? Not Saturday? – thursdaysgeek Mar 10 at 16:33
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    The drive back is work. He doesn't work on Saturday or Sunday. – gnasher729 Mar 11 at 9:29
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    @thursdaysgeek Other people have pointed out that OP should get paid even for driving back on the weekend; however, this answer is pointing out that even by following the company's messed up logic the company still wouldn't benefit because then people would just drive back on Monday so they still get paid for the travel time. Enjoy the distant location for the weekend, then travel back Monday when the company acknowledges it as work time. This is probably not necessary, but it's a good alternative point of view. – Aaron Mar 11 at 18:56
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I'm not suggesting this is what you should have done, but do I wonder if they would have had the same reaction if you had not said anything, and just showed up at work on Monday morning? You would have goofed off on Friday, gotten paid, and if you pocketed the hotel refund, actually made extra money.

Really though, as the other answers already said, you should be getting paid for your travel time to and from the conference. You have in fact saved your employer a load of money already - 1 night in the hotel, plus Friday's dinner, plus Saturday's breakfast, plus 6 hours driving time on Saturday, and you are more rested having had 2 days for your weekend. Demand that you get paid for 6 hours driving to the conference on Sunday, and don't let them steal your days off.

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When I got back in the office today, my manager told me that I'd have to use one of my unpaid time-off days for this, since they didn't get any value out of my day. Is this a reasonable request or something I should push back on?

Yes push back. This doesn't sound right to me since it was beyond your control but otherwise you would have gotten paid. Generally speaking commute times aren't considered paid time but traveling to and from work related events are. By spending time traveling from the work event back to your home is considered paid hours.

I'm guessing your boss doesn't understand HR policy or misunderstood something. I would get further clarification and even go up to HR to ask.

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In my 30 years I have seen:

  1. No pay for travel time but if you work while traveling you get paid for the work.

  2. No pay for travel time but while traveling at the client site we got crazy hours in so we made up for the lost hours. We also got $50/night "travel pay".

  3. Paid for travel time, but not to exceed 8 hours/day total work time. So if you travelled 4 and worked 6 you could bill 2 hours of travel time.

  4. Paid 1/2 rate for travel time from the time you leave your house until you get to the worksite or hotel. And in the reverse as well.

  5. Paid full rate for travel to the client, but not paid for travel home. The logic behind this is: If you are traveling to the client you are working for them. When you leave the client site you could be going anywhere (including a different client; in which case that client would pay your time).

Look at the job as a whole before making waves with their policies. Some of the policies above seem pretty unfair, but the companies had other policies that where pretty good. If you are in a small company then your salary is very dependent on how well you cooperate with everyone; making a fuss about policies is a fast way to get small raises. If you are in a big company then their policies were set by lawyers and you won't be changing them anytime soon.

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