Fifth Circuit Holds Employer's Mandatory Travel Program Does Not Constitute Compensable Travel Time

Yesterday the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, a judgment for an employer who was sued by its employees for travel time that the employer did not include as working time.   Its a complicated set of facts and you can read Griffen v. S&B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd. here if you're interested.  While most employers don't have travel time issues nearly as complex as the Griffen case, it provides sufficient reason to review the general rules about when travel time constitutes working, compensable time for nonexempt employees. There are essentially four general rules:

  1. Regular Home-to-Work: Regular home-to-work commuting time is not compensable. Consequently, an employee’s travel time from the employee’s home to her regular place of business does not count as hours worked. However, where the employee’s workday begins and ends at home such as where the employee drives co-workers to work in a company-owned vehicle at the employer’s request or where the employee has to run errands on behalf of the employer on the way to work, such time might be compensable if it integral and indispensable part of the employee’s principal duties; is required by the employee and/or is more than de minimus.
  2. Special One-Day Assignment: Travel time spent in the commute to a one-day (non-overnight) special assignment in another city, away from the normal fixed location of work, may be considered working time. The employer should include the commuting time less that amount of time the employee normally spends commuting from home to the regular fixed location of work. 
  3. Travel as Part of the Job: Travel time for employee who must travel as part of their regular, principal duties are included as hours worked. For example, the hours that an employee who is tasked with visiting different locations of the employer or customers during the course of the business day, spends commuting between those locations are hours worked. The employer is generally permitted to deduct from those hours worked an amount of time equal to the average normal commute time immediately prior to the first visit of the day and after the last visit of the day 
  4. Overnight Travel: Travel time that takes an employee away from home overnight is called travel away from home. Travel time occurring during the employee’s regular work hours, whether on regular workdays or corresponding not work days is compensable. Travel time occurring outside those regular working hours is not compensable unless the employee is required to perform work while traveling. The DOL’s current enforcement position is to ignore travel time occurring outside the normal working hours as a passenger on a plane, train, automobile, boat or bus as working time unless the employee is required to work while engaged in such travel.

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