Travel Wage Question

Travel Wage Question: Can workers be paid less for travel time and mandatory meetings?

Dear Janet,

I work for a company that requires us to travel. We have a location in town were we always meet and then travel to the job site in a company vehicle. The company subtracts one hour each way for travel. So, if it takes us three hours to travel there and three hours to travel home, we are paid four hours of travel time. Is it legal for the company to subtract those two hours of travel time?

We are also paid two different wages. We receive minimum wage for travel and minimum wage for a fifteen-minute meeting before every job. We only start to receive our regular pay when our job duties start until the job is finished.

Is it legal for the company to pay minimum wage for the mandatory meeting before work and for travel time?

–Wondering in Michigan

Dear Wondering,

The answer to all of your questions, is “It depends.”

An employee can be paid two different rates for two different jobs performed during the same pay week. So, depending on circumstances, there’s nothing wrong with paying the same worker two different hourly rates for work, if there is a policy in place for doing so. For instance, a landscaping company might pay a worker one rate for mowing lawns, and another rate for removing  or planting shrubs if there were a company policy established to that effect.

But the situation you describe raises a lot of questions, says Michael Holzschu, a principal in Holzschu, Jordan, Schiff and Associates human resources consulting firm. “One of the sticky points is whether the workers are permitted to travel to the worksite on their own, or if they are required to use company-provided transportation.”

“Since you are meeting at a company location and then leaving from there, it could be argued that you have started working once you leave from that location and that the company is paying for some of the drive time, ” Holzschu says. “Normally, a company will pay for all or none of the drive time not part of it.”

If you are required to use the transportation the company provides, and if it is determined the workday starts with or before the drive time, another potential pitfall is the total time workers are spending on the job. The combined travel time and on-site work hours might add up to enough hours of work that the employer would need to pay overtime pay, Holzschu says.

Your best bet for an answer: contact the US Department of Labor and speak with a Wage and Hour Representative. They guarantee that your name will not be released to the employer should an investigation occur. Detroit office phone number is             313-226-7448       and you may be referred to a different office closer to you

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