H.R. Questions: Under what circumstances are employers required to pay for travel?

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Hey Compliance Warriors and HR Bosses!


I had a question from a member a few days ago that I know will help many of you who struggle with travel pay concerns. Our member gave me 3 scenarios and asked how they should be dealt with. So, read them and let me know if you still have questions.


Scenario #1: an employee is hired to run errands to/from offices. they are given a flat rate for their hourly wage….and time spent running errands is paid time. HOWEVER, do we have to pay EXTRA costs? To assist with gas, wear and tear on cars….etc.    Since the employee is using their own vehicle, mileage is suggested to cover the combination of gas and wear and tear. If the employee earns minimum wage or close to minimum wage, the employer could be accused of dropping the worker below minimum if they are required to cover the gas/upkeep expenses. Courts use the “necessary or required” test to decide whether an employer should be liable for expenses. NM has no actual law on this matter. But, many states do. If pressed the state DOL would use “necessary or required” to determine liability.


Scenario #2: an employee is hired, and agrees to work a neighboring city….1 hr away. Do we have to pay for employee travel time…if they knew where the location was and agreed to take on the job?  No. If an employee agrees to work a distant location from their home and this is their reporting location every day, the time spent traveling to work every day is the unpaid commute.


Scenario #3: an employee is asked to cover a position in an office at a neighboring city. They agree to do so. We have to pay travel time for that employee?   Yes. In this case you would subtract the usual shorter commute from the temporary longer commute and pay the difference.


You can find some DOL guidance here. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs22.pdf


I hope this helps!


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Lisa Smith, SPHR, SHRM – SCP
Certified EEO Investigator (EEOC)
Lead Support and Content Chief – HelpDeskforHR.com
“You cannot be audit-proof, but you can Be Audit-Secure.”

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