When Must an Employer Pay for Travel Time?

We all know that an employer does not need to pay an individual for their daily commute back and forth from home. Yet, there are other cases where a nonexempt worker must travel locally, make a day trip to a different city or go on an extended overnight travel to another location. When does the law require an employer to pay wages?

Our Philadelphia employment attorneys help individuals determine if they are not being paid travel time according to the law.  For a free initial legal consultation with one of our attorneys, please call 1-800-590-4116.

The Home-Work Commute

The Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to make clear that travel to or from the actual place where an employee performs his or her principal activities is excluded from the mandatory compensation provisions of the law. However, if an employer asks someone to make a stop along the way, then the time from the stop to the work location must be compensated because it is not purely commuting.

Trips Within The Home City

Any travel required by an employee’s job should be paid. So if he or she is required to go from work to one or more other locations, the time it takes to travel between them should be paid. If the individual goes from the last location back to work, then that time is paid as well. However, when the individual leaves the last location for home, that time probably does not need to be paid.

Out of Town Day Trips

An individual must be paid for their travel out of town. However, if they are departing from a location within the city that is not their home, they do not need to be paid for the commuting time.


Travel once he or she has arrived at the other city is also compensated, but the lunch period need not be.


If the employee decides to have dinner with a friend and extend his trip, that period does not need to be paid. However, if his or her flight home was set and the employee decided to kill the extra time by having dinner with the friend, then the time must be paid.

Overnight Trips

Generally, travel within normal work hours (even if Saturday or Sunday) is considered work time. If the employee is driving, that time is also considered time worked. The period of time spent traveling as a passenger outside of normal working hours is not considered time worked. The home to airport and airport to home commute is also not time worked.

The Start & End of the Work Day

There are a number of factors that may cause the work day to start earlier than one might expect. These factors include transporting special equipment (laptops, briefcases, wrenches do not count), work performed during the commute that is not de minimis, after hours/emergency work, and reporting to a remote site (travel from remote site to work site must be compensated).

If an individual is required to perform work before leaving for the day (checking email, planning day, phone calls, extensive vehicle inspections, etc.), then it may be that the commute time must be compensated. This requires an extensive examination of the facts of the particular case at hand.

Pennsylvania Law On Travel Time

The PA Department of Labor website says that an employer must pay for travel if an employee is required to report to the employer’s establishment. Otherwise, the home to first job and last job to home commute need not be paid.

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