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Travel Time and Training Time: When Is Pay Required?

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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay non-exempt employees for all "hours worked." The definition of hours worked includes both the time spent actually working and time spent on certain other non-productive activities, such as attending training sessions and traveling for work.

Below, we discuss several situations where training and travel time must be paid.

Training time

In most cases, the FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt employees for the time they spend in training. In order for training time to be considered unpaid, the training must meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. Attendance is outside of the employee's regular working hours;
  2. Attendance is voluntary;
  3. The course, lecture or meeting is not directly related to the employee's job; and
  4. The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

Under FLSA regulations, training is considered directly related to the employee's job if it is designed to help the employee handle their current job more effectively as distinguished from training the employee for another job (such as a higher level position). Here are some examples.

Example 1

A doctor's office requires employees to attend training on patient privacy. The training will take place at the end of the employee's regular shift.

Pay required? Yes. The time spent attending the training must be paid because the training is not voluntary and is related to the employee's job.

Example 2

The owner of a health club is offering a yoga class to clients and allows employees to attend. While the owner says attendance by employees is voluntary, supervisors tell their employees that they expect employees to attend and schedule employees' time off so they can do so.

Pay required? Yes. The time employees spend in the yoga class must be paid because when supervisors make clear to all employees that their attendance is expected, and the supervisors schedule employees' time off to facilitate attendance, attendance is not truly voluntary.

Example 3

As part of its benefits program, an employer provides employee tuition assistance so employees can take various courses that do not necessarily relate to their current positions. The program is strictly voluntary and classwork occurs outside of regular working hours. If an employee decides to participate, the employee does not perform any productive work during the course.

Pay required? Pay for the hours spent attending the course would not generally be required because this program would meet all four criteria listed above, in that attendance is voluntary and outside regular working hours, the course is not directly related to the employee's current job, and no productive work is performed during the course.

Travel time

Whether the time non-exempt employees spend traveling is considered hours worked depends on the type of travel involved. The following examples address common travel scenarios and related FLSA pay requirements.

Example 1

An employee whose commute is usually 15 minutes each way is given a one-day assignment in another city. The employee's travel to the special assignment takes two hours each way.

Pay required? Yes. If an employee regularly works at a fixed location in one city but is given a special one-day assignment in another city, the time spent traveling to and from that special one-day assignment is considered hours worked. However, you may subtract the time it normally takes the employee to travel to and from their regular worksite. In this example, the employee would be entitled to 3.5 hours of paid time for the travel (4 hours of travel minus 30 minutes of normal commuting time).

Example 2

A service technician spends several hours during their workday traveling from worksite to worksite.

Pay required? Yes. The time employees spend traveling between job sites during the workday is part of their principal activity and is considered hours worked under the FLSA.

Example 3

An employee's regular work hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The employee goes on a business trip that begins with a 9 a.m. flight on a Saturday. The flight takes 3 hours.

Pay required? Yes. Pay is required for the time that cuts across the employee's regular working hours (regardless of the day of the week). In this example, since the flight is at 9.a.m., a time the employee would normally be at work, the travel time on the flight is considered work time. Travel to and from the hotel and airport must also be paid if it falls during the employee's normal hours.

Example 4

An employer asks an employee to pick up office supplies on the way to work.

Pay required? Yes. If you require the employee to perform any work during the commute, the time the employee spends working and the time the employee spends traveling from the beginning of the first work-related duty to the work site (or home) would be considered hours worked under the FLSA. In this example, the time from the beginning of the stop to pick up office supplies until they arrive at the work site are hours worked and must be paid.

Example 5

An employee has gone home after completing a day's work and is subsequently called to a customer for an emergency. The employee has to travel a substantial distance.

Pay required? Yes. If an employee who has gone home after completing a day's work is subsequently called back and must travel a substantial distance to perform an emergency job for one of the company's customers, all of the time spent in travel (as well as the time spent performing job responsibilities once the employee arrives) is considered working time. Under the FLSA, there is generally no requirement to pay employees for time spent traveling when they are called back to their regular place of work in an emergency outside normal work hours.


Employers should carefully review FLSA regulations and guidance to ensure that they pay employees at least the minimum wage for all time considered hours worked.


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