The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally does not require employees to be paid for commuting between home and work, but there are a few potential exceptions to this rule that employers should know. Here are the primary rules for determining whether commuting time constitutes hours worked under the FLSA:
- Ordinary Commuting: Travel from home to work at the beginning of the workday and from work to home at the end of the workday is a normal incident of employment for which compensation is typically not required. 29 C.F.R. § 785.35.
- Ordinary Commuting with a Company Car: Compensation is generally not required for ordinary commuting while using an employer’s vehicle if the travel is “within the normal commuting area for the employer’s business or establishment and the use of the employer’s vehicle is subject to an agreement on the part of the employer and the employee or representative of such employee.” 29 U.S.C. § 254(a).
- Commuting in Emergency Situations: Travel between home and work may constitute overtime under certain emergency circumstances. The Department of Labor’s regulations provide the example that “if an employee who has gone home after completing his day’s work is subsequently called out at night to travel a substantial distance to perform an emergency job for one of his employer’s customers all time spent on such travel is working time.” 29 C.F.R. § 785.36.
- Special Assignments in Another City: Commuting time may be compensable when an employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one-day work assignment in another city. Compensation is required if the travel is performed for the employer’s benefit and at the employer’s special request to meet the needs of a particular and unusual assignment. Only travel time in excess of the employee’s ordinary home-to-work and work-to-home travel must be counted as worktime. 29 C.F.R. § 785.37.
Takeaway: In most situations, employers do not need to pay employees for commuting between home and work, but there are a few exceptions to this rule. Employers who call on employees to respond to emergencies or who send employees on special assignments to other cities should be familiar with the applicable rules governing compensation for commuting time.