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Should an hourly employee be paid for travel time under federal or Ohio labor laws?

Sep 22, 2021

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Ohio wage laws, the answer to “do Ohio hourly employees get paid for travel time” or can be difficult to understand. This is because whether or not there is travel pay for hourly employees in Ohio often depends upon the circumstances for why, how, and where the hourly employee is traveling for work. Therefore, the short answer to “is travel time counted is wages?” is: It depends.

In this article, our Ohio wage and hour attorneys distinguish the circumstances for when an hourly employee in Ohio should be getting paid for travel time.

Who is eligible to be paid for travel time under Ohio labor laws and the FLSA?

In Ohio, travel time pay for hourly employees and travel time wages is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Ohio employment laws. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, all non-exempt employees qualify to be paid for travel time under certain circumstances. The general assumption is that most employees who are hourly paid employees are considered non-exempt employees and likely are eligible to be paid for their travel time. Below are the specific circumstances that control whether hourly employees get paid for travel time.

Does an employer have to pay an hourly employee for travel time driving to and from work every day (commuting)?

No, 29 CFR § 785.35, states, “An employee who travels from home before his regular workday and returns to his home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home to work travel which is a normal incident of employment. This is true whether he works at a fixed location or at different job sites. Normal travel from home to work is not working time.” Therefore, your boss is not required to pay you for commuting to and from work.

However, as you may have guessed, under certain scenarios, an exception to this rule may apply. For instance, 29 CFR § 785.36 discusses “home to work in emergency situations.” Under § 785.36, an employee must be paid for travel time if that employee has completed work and has traveled home, but then is later called and directed to travel “a substantial distance to perform an emergency job for one of his employer’s customers.” Under these circumstances, if an employer does not pay an employee for the travel time, it can be considered a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Read Also: Can my boss take my tips?

Does an employer have to pay an hourly employee for travel time traveling between workplaces during the same workday?

Yes, an hourly employee must be paid for time spent traveling from one workplace to another during the same workday. Below are a few examples of when travel time must be paid under these circumstances:

  • A home health aide traveling between the homes of two of her patients during normal work hours
  • A construction worker traveling between two construction job sites during his or her shift
  • Janitorial staff who must travel from one location to another throughout their normal shift
  • An employee that is required to travel to a different location for a meeting and then travel back
  • An employee who must leave to travel to a different store to pick up a part or inventory and travel back to work

Under these circumstances, an hourly employee must be paid for the time they spend traveling. 29 CFR § 785.38.

Does an hourly employee have to be paid for travel time spent traveling between two cities on a one-day assignment?

Yes, an hourly employee must be paid for time spent for round-trip travel between two cities in one day. For example, if an hourly employee is driving from Columbus, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio, and then back in one day on a special assignment, the time that employee spends traveling must be paid. This is true even if the worker returns to Columbus past his or her normal scheduled work time. However, 29 CFR § 785.37 states that the time that the employee spends regularly commuting to and from the employee’s work may be deducted from the overall round-trip travel time. For example, if an employee normally spends 15 minutes driving to and from work (30 minutes round trip), the employer may deduct 30 minutes from the overall time spent on round-trip traveling for that day’s assignment.

For Ohio employees who travel overnight, how is an hourly employee supposed to be paid for travel time during overnight travel?

It depends. There also are stipulations under federal labor laws for travel pay when an hourly employee travels away from home and has to spend more than one workday away. Under these circumstances, an employee is not required to be paid for the time spent traveling unless the time spent traveling occurs during the employee’s normal work hours. However, if the employee actually performs work while traveling, such as reading and responding to e-mails while riding or flying, the employer must pay the hourly employee for the time spent working. 29 CFR 785.39.

The employee must also be paid for travel time if the time spent traveling occurs during normal work hours but on non-workdays. For instance, if I work 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Thursday and I have to travel on Friday, any time spent traveling between 9:00 to 5:00 must be counted as hours worked.

What can I do in Ohio if my boss is not paying me correctly for travel time?

The Fair Labor Standards Act makes it illegal for your employer to terminate you if you make complaints about pay violations or perceived pay violations (such as incorrect pay for travel time). However, we still understand that it can feel uncomfortable attempting to discuss pay issues with your boss. We also understand that most people do not want to file a lawsuit. For these reasons, our firm attempts to resolve these matters professionally with employers prior to filing lawsuits.

However, if your employer does not want to pay the wages it owes you under the law, litigation may likely be the best option to resolve your claims and obtain the wages you worked for and are owed. Under Ohio labor laws and the FLSA, a private lawsuit may be filed against an employer for wage violations. Importantly, all employees who have suffered the same wage violations may also join together and file one lawsuit known as a collective action. When an employee successfully proves that the employer violated the FLSA, the employer may be required to pay back wages (the wages that should have been paid), an additional amount equal to the back wages (known as “liquidated damages”), plus the attorney fees and court costs.

Contact Brian G. Miller Co., L.P.A. to discuss whether Ohio wage laws require you to get paid for travel time

If your employer is not paying you for travel time correctly as required by Ohio labor laws or the FLSA, or if you have questions about how hourly employees should be paid for travel time under different circumstances, please call (614) 221-4035 or click here to schedule a free consultation with a trusted and respected Ohio wage and hour attorney at Brian G. Miller Co., L.P.A

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