Today’s blog will address some common questions about employee travel. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor website or your own state’s Department of Labor website.
Q. I provide a company car for one of my employees that he uses to travel to and from work as well as going on sales calls. Do I need to pay him for all the time he is in the company car, including commuting?
A. Commuting hours are not considered “hours worked” but a personal expense. You do not have to pay for commuting hours, even though the employee is using a company car. However, if the employee is traveling from one job location (sales call, in this case) to another during regular working hours, that travel time must be paid.
Q. A few of my employees are flying to company-sponsored training in another state. Some are currently nonexempt and some are exempt. I know I should pay the nonexempt employees for travel time, but what about the exempt employees?
A. Anytime travel occurs during regular working hours for the company’s benefit, both nonexempt and exempt employees should be paid for travel (except commuting time). However, you do not have to pay for the time it takes the employee to travel to the airport. That can be considered commuting time. If the travel occurs during a weekend or other non-working hours, nonexempt employees should be reimbursed for overtime.
Q. What happens if an accident occurs while an employee is traveling in a company car?
In most case, the employer is considered responsible for any liability that results from an accident involving a company car, as long as the employee was acting within the scope of employment. Under those circumstances, the employer cannot force the employee to pay for damages and cannot fire the employee unless the employee was reckless or violated company rules on operating the vehicle. Even if the employee was using the car for personal business and was clearly at fault, the company can be held responsible if, for example, the employee has been ticketed for driving violations in the past or has a medical problem that would affect their driving ability or if the car wasn’t properly maintained.
HR Compliance 101 can help you develop company policies that align with state and federal law regarding employee travel while protecting you and your employees.