Travel Compensation Attend Out of Town Training

We have an employee who is complaining that due to travel arrangements made for them they had to go to the airport early to catch their flight (outside normal work hours/ during the work week). Their flight did not arrive back home till after normal work hours also during the workweek. Their travel to the training program was during the normal work week and they were gone for several days. They are requesting compensation for the travel outside normal work hours due to travel. After reviewing FLSA and general infomation on HR Laws it does not appear we would have to compensate the hours outside normal work hours. I would appreciate some opinions on this issue.


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  • Hi,

    Welcome to the Forum!

    Here are a couple of links to pages on HRLaws that confirm your assessment of the FLSA regarding travel time.



    Also, here is a section of Fact Sheet #22 from the USDOL regarding overnight travel time:

    Travel Away from Home Community: Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee's workday. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days. As an enforcement policy the Division will not consider as work time that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.

    You can find fact sheet #22 at: [url][/url]

    I hope this helps and, again, welcome to the Forum.


  • There may be an issue if the employee had to drive himself (or herself) to and from the airport. The rule you are referring to applies only to employees who are [B]passengers[/B]. If they drive themselves, then they must be compensated.

    For example, let's say an employee's normal workday starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m., but that her departing flight is scheduled to leave at 6:00 a.m. and her return flight is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (a few days later). The employee would be required to get to the airport at least one hour ahead of time. I don't know the answer to this for sure, but there may be an argument that you need to compensate her for the drive to and from the airport if she drives herself. There may also be an issue regarding compensability of the time spent waiting for her flight, but I am less certain of that.

    I haven't looked at these types of travel time issues in a while, and I'm not completely up to speed. Maybe Holly will have something to add to the discussion.

  • Is this an exempt or non-exempt employee?
  • This issue relates to non-exempt employees.

    I can make the argument that time spent at the airport (check-in, waiting for the flight, etc.) should be compensable, although the DOL makes no mention of airport waiting time. Time driving to/from the airport, however, would be considered commute time to/from work and not compensable, unless it is longer than the employee's normal commute then that portion could be compensable.

    I think this gets into more of an employee relations issue in that employee's expect to be compensated for doing anything related to work outside of normal working hours. As a result, hourly employees would expect to, and in my opinion should, be paid for driving to the airport (the part that is longer than their normal commute) and any time spent checking-in with the airline and waiting for the plane.

  • I have always interpreted the regulations to say that an employee does not receive compensation for any overnight travel during non-work hours unless they are driving other employees. So, an employee driving himself would not receive compensation for that time. Also, waiting time at the airport would not be compensable. I think you need to be cautious before you deviate from FLSA. If you start paying employees for wait time, you may end up compensating an employee for a 24-hour period (or even longer) if they miss a connecting flight and end up spending the night at the airport.
  • Just to clarify a few points:

    There is some difference between the FLSA rules when the travel is for a one-day assignment and when the travel is for overnight travel.

    I won't get into the day assignment rules too much, since they're not on-topic here, but I do want to note that some of the "this feels like this should be paid" time, such as additional commute time to get to the airport, pre-work time spent waiting at the airport, etc. [b]would[/b] have to be paid if the trip were a day-long, special assignment of sorts. In those cases, the waiting time is considered part of the principal activity of the special work assignment. (The rules also change if the employee is driving, but that's another huge tangent).

    Since we're talking about a multi-day trip, the FLSA regs would apply as follows:

    - Time traveling to the airport before the normal work day begins is commute time and is not compensable.
    - Time waiting at the airport is not compensable until/unless it occurs during normal work hours. Then the time is compensable.
    - Time on the plane is not compensable (the employee is considered a passenger) unless it (a) occurs during normal work hours and/or (b) the employee performs work while on the plane.
    - Work time at the assignment is compensable, with the exception of non-working meal periods. If the meal periods are working meals (e.g., presented during a seminar), they are compensable.

    So if you have an employee who works 8-5 whose flight leaves at 9 a.m.:

    - 7:00 a.m.: Employee leaves home to travel to the airport. Non-compensable commute time.
    - 7:30 a.m.: Employee arrives at airport for check-in and wait. Non-compensable.
    - 8:00 a.m.: Employee's normal work day starts at this time. Employee is still waiting at the airport. This time will be paid.
    - 9:00 a.m.: Flight departs. As the travel time is during normal work hours, this time will be paid.
    - 10:00 a.m.: Employee arrives at destination and begins work. This time is paid.
    - 12:00 p.m.: Employee attends a mandatory lunch seminar on a work topic. This is a working lunch, this time is paid.
    - 5:00 p.m.: Standard workday ends, employee is still working. This time is paid.
    - 7:00 p.m.: Employee ends work and returns to hotel for dinner. Time after this is non-compensable.

    Following Day

    - 8:00 a.m.: Employee begins workday. This time is compensable.
    - 4:00 p.m.: Work assignment ends, employee takes cab to airport. This time is during the normal workday, so is compensable.
    - 5:00 p.m.: Employee boards return flight. This time is outside the working day and is passenger time, so is not compensable. However, the employee spends an hour mid-flight preparing a report on the seminar from the previous day. This time is work time and is compensable.
    - 7:00 p.m.: Employee arrives at airport, drives home. This time is commute time and is not compensable.

    And if anyone's curious, if these events happen on, say, Saturday and Sunday, for an employee who typically works Monday through Friday, then the calculations would not change. The example employee's "work day" would still run from 8-5, even if it's Sunday.

    Now, with all of this said, this is simply what is required by the FLSA regulations. There are strong arguments in favor of paying non-exempt employees for the extra "inconvenience time" endured while waiting for early flights, etc., but it isn't mandatory per FLSA.
  • The best solution is to convert the employee to exempt status before they leave for the training, and reverse that after they return. Payroll hates it, but the compensatory time issues go away. Make sure you don't forget to switch them back, though, or else it gets messy.
    [SIZE=1]just kidding[/SIZE]
  • Good one Frank!

    Make sure to check your state laws also. WI would require all travel and wait time to be paid.
  • Thank you SO much for great clarity-- esp adding in the Sa/Su reference.
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