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As a New York employee, you have a right to be paid for the time you work. In some cases, employees have a right to be paid for their travel time according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Generally, time spent traveling must be paid unless it is considered a normal commute between work and home.

If your employer has withheld payment for work-related travel time outside of your daily commute, you may have a valid legal claim for compensation. The New York City employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP are here to help. We will review your case and help you understand your legal rights. Our law firm has a proven track record of successfully recovering the maximum compensation possible for our clients.

Compensation for Travel Time Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Employees are always entitled to compensation for the time they spend performing work-related tasks, regardless of the time of day, day of the week, or location. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that “Any work which an employee is required to perform while traveling must, of course, be counted as hours worked.” 29 C.F.R. § 785.41. 

An amendment to the FLSA called the Portal-to-Portal Act stated that in specific circumstances, employees are also not entitled to payment for their commute to and from work and home. Normal travel by an employee from home to work is not considered work time.

Is Mid-Day Work Travel Considered a “Normal” Commute?

Normal commutes to and from work are not considered work time and are subject to pay. The definition of a normal commute is ordinary home-to-work travel before the regular workday and travel from the workplace to the employee’s home at the end of the workday. Some employees are required to travel during the workday as part of their employment. If you are required to travel in the middle of your workday, your employer may be required to compensate you for the travel. 

The “All in the Day’s Work” Rule

The FLSA’s “all in a day’s work rule” requires employers to compensate employees for “time spent by an employee in travel as part of his principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday.” 29 C.F.R. § 785.38. For example, suppose an employee drives from her home to her office. An hour later, the employee travels from the office to a customer’s home on work-related business. The drive from home to work is unpaid, but the employer must compensate the employee for travel time to and from the customer’s house. 

Travel during the work day is usually considered “mid-day travel” covered under the FLSA’s “all in the day’s work” rule. The rule requires employers to compensate employees who travel from location to location for work-related reasons until the end of the workday when the employee is traveling home. 

The “all in a day’s work rule” ends when the employee has completed the last work-related task of the day, whether at the office or a job site. The travel from that point to the employee’s home isn’t considered work time, it is considered a normal commute and can remain unpaid. In short, once the employee has reported to the first job site for the day, his or her travel time to other job sites must be paid until the employee travels home.

Compensation for Employees Traveling Away from Home

When work-related travel requires an overnight stay, any time spent traveling that falls within the employee’s normal working hours must be paid. This rule applies regardless of the day of the week the travel occurs. For example, time spent traveling to an airport terminal, train station, or bus station is considered normal commute time and can be unpaid. However, time spent waiting at the airport terminal is considered compensable when it occurs during the employee’s normal work hours. 

For example, suppose an employee usually works from 7am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. She is required to fly out of state for a business conference on a Sunday. If she arrives at the airport at 3pm on Sunday and is at her destination at 7pm, her employer must pay her for her work between 3pm and 4pm, the hours that correspond with her normally scheduled work hours. 

However, suppose an employee drives himself or others at his employer’s request to the conference rather than traveling as a passenger. In that case, all of the time spent driving is considered compensable work time, regardless of his normal working hours.

Compensation for Work Performed While Traveling

Employers must pay employees for any time spent working during travel as a passenger when the employee is performing work. This rule applies even when time spent working during travel as a passenger would otherwise not be compensable because it doesn’t fall within the employee’s normal work schedule. Suppose an employee usually works between 9am and 5pm The employee arrives at the airport at 1pm and at her destination at 8pm.

Generally, the employer would only need to pay the employee for working between 1pm and 5pm because it falls within her normal work schedule. However, if the employee works on an upcoming presentation before and during her flight until 7pm, her employer would be required to pay her from 1pm to 7pm 

Compensation for a One-Day Trip to Another City

What happens when an employee has to travel outside of his or her city for work but returns the same day? In this case, all of the time spent traveling must be paid, regardless of the employee’s regular work hours. The employer can deduct the employee’s normal commute time.

Questions About Compensable Travel Time? We Can Help

At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we believe employees should be fairly compensated for all of their work time, including qualifying travel time. The rules regarding compensable travel time are complicated. Unfortunately, many New York employers don’t understand the rules and fail to pay employees for travel time that should be paid. If you have questions about compensable travel time, don’t hesitate to contact Lipsky Lowe LLP to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation case evaluation.