Lawyers in our firm routinely get inquiries from clients that travel both long and short distances to work, or who do not have a formal office, wondering if they should be paid for their commute time to and from the job site. The answer, like several things in the law is, it depends. First, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the general rule is that employees do not get paid for routine commutes to and from work, no matter the distance. However, if an employee is assigned work outside their routine commute, that may turn the drive to work or home into compensable time.
For example, if your boss asks you to go by an office supply store on the way in to pick up things needed for the office, or if you have to drop off your store’s bank deposit on your way home, then that time spent on company business is usually compensable. But a more difficult question arises when a company gives its employee a vehicle and allows them to use it to commute to and from work. Generally, if the vehicle is a normal size car or truck, like most people drive to and from work, then they would not be owed compensation for their commute time. However, if the employee is given a non-typical or specialty vehicle, i.e., an 18-wheeler, concrete truck or truck that hauls heavy equipment, then the commute time to work may very well be compensable.
Similarly, if the company vehicle is such that it requires you to deviate from your normal commuting route (due to such vehicular restrictions as weight allowances on bridges, size allowances in tunnels, or chemicals transported), then the time may also be compensable.
Another caveat for employer-provided vehicles is where the employee is actually responsible for the direct costs of driving the company automobile. Under the FLSA, the employee should generally not incur out-of pocket expenses associated with operating the company vehicle. This means that in connection with commuting in employer-provided vehicles, the employee should generally not be responsible for things such as maintenance, parking fees, gas or toll roads. If your employer is constantly asking you to cover expenses such as these, then your commute time may be compensable. If you need additional information contact Roman Shaul, a lawyer in our Consumer Fraud Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Roman.Shaul@beasleyallen.com.
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