Q: We recently encouraged hourly employees in our Facilities Department to attend trade-related training programs. An HVAC Foreman drove out-of-town and attended an approved two-day HVAC training course in order to perform his job duties better. The employee now seeks compensation for all time he spent attending the program, including his travel. We believe we need to pay him for his time spent attending the training program. Do we have to pay him for his travel time as well?
A: Most likely yes.
The Fair Labor Standards Act – or FLSA for short – provides that whether travel to and from training programs constitutes compensable working time depends on a number of factors, such as the type and timing of travel. Under the FLSA and related regulations, travel that keeps an employee away from his or her home overnight constitutes “travel away from the home community.” 29 CFR 785.39-40. Such time generally constitutes compensable working time if travel occurs during an employee’s normal workday. Id. Yet this time also constitutes compensable working time if it occurs outside an employee’s normal working hours. Id. The regulations explain: “[I]f an employee regularly works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, the travel time during these hours is worktime on Saturday and Sunday as well as on the other days.” Id. An exception to this rule exists, however, if the employee travels away from the home community as a passenger in an automobile, bus, train, boat, or airplane. Id. Travel time is also compensable if an employer requires an employee to travel to another site to work after his or her scheduled workday. 29 CFR 785.38.
While no facts exists in the above example demonstrating when the HVAC Foreman traveled, the district admits that it encouraged and approved its employee to drive himself and attend the two-day HVAC course in another city. Under the applicable laws, the HVAC Foreman’s required travel time constitutes travel away from the home community and is compensable because no exception applies. For more specific or additional questions regarding compensable time under the FLSA, please contact your local school attorney.