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We are attending a conference on Friday but the driving time to get there is two hours and we are required to be at the work location two hours prior to my normal shift in order to hit the road and be on time.

If I'm required to be here two hours early for traveling purpose and I am a non-exempt employee, should I get paid for those two hours? Or receive comp time?

In other words, does traveling time counts as working hours?

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    You might find this page useful: Federal Labor Laws on Travel Time & Expenses – David K May 2 '17 at 14:35
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    To those voting to close because this is a legal question, please remember that legal questions an HR professional should be able to answer are on-topic here. See this Meta post. – David K May 2 '17 at 14:46
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    Very closely related to "How to clock time on a mandatory shuttle?" and "Can my employer demand that I show up to work 15 minutes before my shift but not pay me for that time?". A highlight from my answer on the latter seems to actually answer this in your case: "With only a few exceptions, all time an employee is required to be at the premises of the employer is work time." – Lilienthal May 3 '17 at 9:19
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings Breaks interrupt work time but the question is usually whether work time has started or not, which is the case here. IBP v. Alvarez has ruled differently on whether changing into work clothes in a locker room is work time and volunteer activities are a legal nightmare. But this is turning into a legal discussion. Rereading the question I guess the specific focus on travel time is sufficient to distinguish this even though all are answered by checking the FLSA definitions. I left the Travel Time section out of the linked answer so I guess I'll post it here instead. :) – Lilienthal May 3 '17 at 14:00
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    @Lilienthal - I just intended to point out(as in most cases) all is probably not the correct choice of word. Almost all sure but there are exceptions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 3 '17 at 14:35
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From a Federal perspective, you've got a very straightforward case here that is pretty easy to read.

Since you're driving to the work site, then to the conference, you are paid from the point you are required to be at the work site until the point you are able to leave the work site and return home.

So it looks like your situation is:

Normal:

  • Leave Home: 7:30 AM
  • Arrive at Work: 8:00 AM
  • Leave Work: 5:00 PM
  • Arrive Home: 5:30 PM

Conference:

  • Leave Home: 5:30 AM
  • Arrive at Work: 6:00 AM
  • Arrive at Conference: 8:00 AM
  • Leave Conference: 5:00 PM
  • Arrive at Work: 7:00 PM
  • Arrive Home: 7:30 PM

You should be paid from 6:00AM to 7:00PM in that example, minus an hour for lunch, assuming you're allowed that as usual, so 12 hours total. In some circumstances the hour for lunch might be paid here as well, also depending on the state I think (and the circumstances of lunch).

Basically, you are paid for time travelling during "normal work hours" which includes the above. If it's a more complex scenario (such as overnight or multiday travel), you might not be on the clock for the travel or for all of it.

See the DOL page on Travel Time. The OPM (federal Office of Personnel Management) also has a good page on this; while it's explicitly for federal employees, it largely matches FLSA regulations and nicely spells out a lot of circumstances explicitly, here.

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In other words, does traveling time counts as working hours?

Generally no, because most employees only travel between home and the workplace and that's never been considered working time, even if you're suddenly required to travel to a different location with a longer commute.

However, the standard definition of Travel Time in the FLSA does consider travel time to be working time if the travel takes place after starting work and you're travelling between work sites. If there's a daily meeting at location A to start the day and people then move to location B to work, that travel time is work time. If you have to pick up gear at the main office before starting work at another site then that travel time is also work time and your employer can't require you to only clock in when you get to that site.

The big problem for your specific scenario is whether the act of coming together at the office before travelling to the job site constitutes actual work or not. Since you are required to be there at a specific time that supports the argument that this is the start of your work day and arranging of transport or even a simple greeting is part of that day's work activities, making any travel time after that working time. But make no mistake: this is a legal gray area.

Of course, a simple way for your management to get around paying you is to just require you to be at the conference site on time. Since you're presumably all functioning adults this is what they should be doing anyway, unless they're organising transport to help people out.

Keep in mind that no matter how right you are, making a big deal out of a few hours over an entire year is likely not a hill worth dying on and could be a Career Limiting Move.


The full section on travel time from the FLSA:

There are some "grey areas" about when the FLSA requires travel time to be treated as working time. However, as a general rule, "home to work" and "work to home" travel time is not work time, and this is true even if the "commute" is longer than normal, to or from a different work site than normal, or the employee uses a company vehicle for the trips. This assumes that the employee is performing no other work activities while commuting. Time spent by an employee writing a report is work time, even if it happens to occur while the employee is riding on a bus (or airplane) to or from work. Travel time which is "all in a day's work" is work time. Usually, this means that travel time is work time if it occurs between when the employee first arrives at the first work site and before the employee leaves the last work site at the end of the work day. The first work site is the place where the employee first performs work activities. For example, an employee who travels to the office, picks up equipment, then goes to a work site to perform the day's activities is working from the time s/he first arrives at the office. Picking up the equipment needed to do the day's activities is the first work activity of the day, and therefore the office is the first work site of the day.

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