Is Travel Time Compensable?

Keith Dunnagan

A routine question that comes up is the scope by which you as the employer are required to pay the travel time of your employees. When is it compensable and when is not? Today, employment attorney, Elizabeth Helms, tackles that question for you.

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Is Travel Time Compensable?

By: P. Elizabeth Helms, Esq.

P. Elizabeth Helms, Esq.

Employers are you compliant with the state guidelines related to travel-based pay? Whether travel time is compensable depends on several factors with the defining factor being “control.” If the employee is under the “control” of the employer, then the employer must pay the employee for this travel time. However, the employer can pay a reduced rate for travel so long as it is not less than the prevailing minimum wage.

Travel time is considered compensable work hours where the employer requires its employees to meet at a designated place, use the employer’s designated method of transportation to and from the work site and prohibits employees from using their own transportation. (Morillion v. Royal Packing Co. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 575)

Pursuant to the Department of Industrial Relations (“DIR”), compulsory travel time longer than the employee’s normal commute is considered compensable time. Travel time to a job site within reasonable proximity of the employee’s regular work site is not compensable. If an employee has no regular job site, travel time to the new job site each day is not compensable. [emphasis added] If an employee has a temporary work location change, the employee must be compensated for any additional time required to travel to the new job site in excess of the employee’s normal commute time.

An employee is “controlled” by the employer whenever the employer “directs, commands or restrains” an employee. (Bono Enterprises, Inc. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal. App. 4th 968, 975.) “Suffered or permitted” to work refers to time worked where the employer knows the employee is working and does nothing to stop it, or when the employer possesses information from which such knowledge can be inferred, and that the employer “had reason to know” that the employee was performing work on its behalf.

In Morillion, although the employees could read or sleep on the bus, they could not use the time for their own purposes; they “were foreclosed from numerous activities in which they might otherwise engage if they were permitted to travel to the fields by their own transportation.” The court in Morillion noted that during the bus ride employees could not drop off their children, stop for food, or run other errands. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded, “When an employer requires its employees to meet at designated places to take its buses to work and prohibits them from taking their own transportation, these employees are ‘subject to the control of an employer,’ and their time spent traveling on the buses is compensable as ‘hours worked.’ ” Therefore, under these facts, the employer controlled the employees within the meaning of “hours worked. The Court, however, made it clear that:

“employers do not risk paying employees for their travel time merely by providing them transportation. Time employees spend traveling on transportation that an employer provides but does not require its employees to use may not be compensable as ‘hours worked.’ [Citation.] Instead, by requiring employees to take certain transportation to a work site, employers thereby subject those employees to [their] control by determining when, where, and how they are to travel. Under the definition of ‘hours worked,’ that travel time is compensable.” (Morillion, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 588.)

To summarize two elements are reviewed, the control exerted by the employer related to the travel method and whether the commute is consistent with the normal or within reasonable proximity of the employee’s regular work site. It is important to make sure you, as the employer, maintain compliance.

If you have employees and are interested in how BPE Law Group can help you with your employment-related matters, call us at (916) 966-2260 or email Elizabeth Helms at

The attorneys of BPE Law Group, PC. have been advising our clients on real estate, business and estate planning issues for over 20 years and have assisted numerous clients in business and real estate matters and have represented and advised brokers on their professional obligations as well as consumers on their rights. If you have questions concerning legal matters, give us a call at (916) 966-2260 or e-mail Keith at Our flat fee consult for new clients may get you the answers you need for the questions you have.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.