Is Travel Time Compensable Time?
Flying Time is Paid Time Says Washington State Court
A Washington State court has recently held that employees who are engaged in travel for work-related business must be paid for ALL hours spent traveling including time going to and from airports and time spent in the air. See Port of Tacoma v. Sacks, Case No. 54498-9-II (Wash. Court of Appeals, 2nd Div. September 21, 2021). This new Washington State court ruling is consistent with the rules in many other states.
If you think that your employer has underpaid you for work-related travel, you should consult with experienced employee rights attorneys like the ones at Herrmann Law. You can make claims for your underpaid wages and, potentially, for overtime. You can also recover money damages from your employer and vindicate your rights as an employee. Here is a brief summary of the Port of Tacoma case and a quick guide on wages and travel time.
In the Port of Tacoma case, several Port employees were sent to China to inspect certain equipment that was being purchased for use at the Port. The employees were also sent to Houston for various training programs. The Port had agreed with the employee union to pay a flat rate of eight hours of wages for each travel day. However, the employees’ actual time far exceeded the eight-hour flat rate. For example, for the trips to China, the employees were required to be at the airports three hours before departure and non-stop cross-Pacific flights between China and Washington State typically take 11 to 12 hours. Additional hours were necessary to clear customs, collect luggage, and arrive at lodgings.
The employees filed wage claims with the relevant Washington State labor division and sought recovery of wages for the hours spent traveling beyond the eight hours that were paid. The employees also asserted claims for overtime and other damages.
When the case eventually reached the Washington State Court of Appeals, the court agreed with the employees. The court made a determination that the travel time at issue — employer-required out-of-town business travel — was “hours worked” for purposes of Washington labor laws. Even though the employees were not engaged in their usual “work duties” while flying and traveling, they were still under the control and direction of their employer. Consequently, the court held that the employer was required to pay wages for work beyond the eight hours paid and was also required to pay overtime and other benefits (if applicable). The case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings.
As noted, the new Washington State rule is consistent with the rules in many other jurisdictions. For example, in Connecticut, employers must pay wages for travel time which is defined as any time “… during which a worker is required or permitted to travel for purposes incidental to the performance of his employment …” This means ALL hours spent engaged in travel is compensable time if the travel is work-related. See Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-60-10. California has a similar rule. See here, page 3. In California, all work-related travel time is compensable since the employee is “carrying out the employer’s directives.” Travel time includes time spent
- Driving to and from an out-of-town event
- Being a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi cab or car, or other mode of transportation while traveling to and from an out-of-town event
- Waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board
- And more
Illinois has a similar rule where “hours worked” is defined to mean all hours that an employee is required to be on duty or otherwise required or permitted to be engaged in the “work” of the employer.
Federal labor laws are less protective of workers. Under federal labor regulations, employers must pay for travel time if the travel is within the “regular working hours” of the employee.
Call the Employee Rights Attorneys at Herrmann Law Today
For more information, call the Employee Rights attorneys at Herrmann Law. If you think that your employer has engaged in wage theft or has otherwise violated your rights as an employee, call us. We are proven, experienced, employee-focused attorneys representing workers across the United States in all types of workplace disputes. Use our Online Contact page or call us at (817) 479-9229. We are more than just a law firm for employees – we are an employee’s fiercest advocate, equipping employees with the legal representation needed to achieve the best result possible.