Public Entity Session Overview – The Ins & Outs of Employee Travel

Public Entity Session Overview – The Ins & Outs of Employee Travel

March 7, 2016.  Speakers: Joshua Bordin-Wosk, Attorney, Bordin, Martorell, LLP and Richard McAbee, Chief Marketing Officer, Carl Warren & Company

At the 2016 Public Agency Risk Managers Association (PARMA) Annual Conference in Indian Wells, public sector employees gathered to learn, network and share ideas. This session was specific to governmental employees in California.


Having proper travel guidelines is critical in maintaining control of governmental employee travel and expenses.  Compensable employee travel is often a topic of discussion for every employer.

What is compensable and what is not? 

Travel time may be considered hours worked in some circumstances.  Hours  worked is defined as “the time an employee has to be on the jobsite or is performing work, and which an employee is suffered or permitted to work whether or not he or she is required to do so”.

Any work activity or work-related activity is compensable during travel, but do keep in mind during travel, there are four basic rules:

  1. Time employees spend commuting to and from their regular place of work each day is not compensable.
  1. Employers do have to pay employees for travel for work, i.e. work to special assignment area, work emergency, or conference.
  1. Overnight travel/travel away from home is considered work under California law.
  1. Regular meal periods and time spent sleeping/leisure activities while traveling is not work time. The employer does not have to pay the employee for this time.

There are exceptions….

Ordinary home-to-work travel is not compensable.  However, when the place of work is to a site or conference, then the travel time is compensable minus the time it takes the employee from home to normal place of work.  The employer cannot disclaim an obligation to pay for an employee’s time in getting to and from the location of that event, especially if an employee is to attend an out-of-town meeting/event.

When traveling, the rate of pay may be lower than the usual rate of pay, as long as the low isn’t less than minimum wage.   An employer may establish a separate rate of pay for actual work of travel time.

There are certain dynamics during travel that requires deviations.  Depending on the deviation, disciplinary actions may take place if a company has certain travel policies in place.  Every employee is subject to follow corporate travel policies.  For example, if a company forbids an employee to use toll roads from point A to point B, but the employee continues to use them.  The employee is compensated for the toll; however this action could be subject to disciplinary action.

Another question that often arises…

A question that often arises is Can an employer monitor an employee driving record?  The simple answer is… if an employee’s main and principal job activity is driving, i.e. bus driver, then yes, an employer can monitor the employee’s driving record continuously.  If an employee’s principal job activity is not driving, then no.