December 31, 2020

Telework & Travel Time: Paid or Unpaid?

This question is not new. COVID-19 has brought it to the forefront, however. As more employees work from home (WFH), employers need to know when they must pay for the employee’s travel from the “home office” to the “corporate office” and back.

On New Year’s Eve, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a related and rather in-depth opinion letter. The employer posed six (6) different scenarios asking in which, if any, was the employer obligated to pay for the employee’s travel time. The DOL’s answer? In none of them! Here’s a combined short version.

You have an employee whose regular work day is 8 hours. You give her a flexible work schedule but do require her to work on-site (aka “core” hours) from at least 10:00 – 2:00 each day. Aside from that, you permit her to work her other four hours in the same day at her convenience, before she comes in, after she leaves, or some hours on each side of her core hours, at home or on-site.  In this scenario, the DOL advises that the employer may not have to pay for any of her travel time from home to the office or back.

Why? The DOL explains, “When an employee (a) chooses to perform some work before traveling to the office or (b) or chooses to perform work at home after leaving the office, and in either case has sufficient time in between her telework and office work periods to use effectively for her own purposes, the time she spends traveling between home and the office are not compensable.”

Implications? Compare these scenarios to your company’s time and attendance policies and practices. Consider what you require versus permit employees to do and when.  Then determine if you want or need to make any changes.

NOTE: Take heed; the DOL notes that this opinion is based, “exclusively on the facts” presented in the employer’s letter to the DOL, which are not exactly duplicated above. Remember I smushed 6 scenarios into one (technical term, “smush”). Talk to your company’s employment counsel before making any changes.

Want more wage and hour news and updates? Check out FiveL Company’s January 27th webcast, “Don’t Play With My Pay…”