Are You Entitled to Pay for Travel Time?

By Elizabeth Ryan, Bailey & Glasser LLP, Boston, Massachusetts

Payment for travel time is a significant issue for workers whose jobs require travel to and from multiple job sites throughout the day. For example, home health aides, one of fastest growing jobs in the United States, often travel to the homes of three or four clients a day to perform personal care, basic medical care, cooking, and cleaning for elderly or affirm clients.

Depending on their schedules, these workers may spend an hour or more each day traveling either in their own vehicles or on public transportation.

This travel is necessary to their work, and is integral to the service that their employers provide, yet some home health aides are paid only for the time spent at a client’s home performing services. Such workers are paid a low hourly rate to begin with and if they are not compensated in full for their time, their pay is effectively being cut illegally.

While time spent commuting is generally not considered “working time” and therefore is unpaid, hourly employees who are required to travel after the start of their workday typically must be paid for their travel time and expenses.

Massachusetts regulations provide that “an employee required or directed to travel from one place to another after the beginning of or before the close of the work day shall be compensated for all travel time and shall be reimbursed for all transportation expenses.” 455 Code Mass. Regs. § 2.03.

Other jobs that may require travel from location to location, and therefore travel pay, include construction workers, security guards, and some sales people.

Although Massachusetts law regarding an employer’s obligation to pay for time spent traveling and for expenses is very clear and straightforward, employers in certain industries traditionally do not pay for travel time or expenses.

Some claim that if the employee has time to go home in between assignments, then the travel time to the next assignment is more like commuting time or a split shift, and therefore need not be paid. But there is little support for this position except in extreme cases where the gap between assignments is great.

Class actions have been brought against employers who failed to pay for travel time in multiple states. For example, a class action brought against Total Health Home Care Corporation in Pennsylvania by home health care workers who were not paid for time spent traveling to client’s homes settled for $2.2 million.

Bailey & Glasser, LLP is litigating and investigating these unpaid wage claims in Massachusetts and West Virginia. If you have questions about your right to be paid for travel time, please feel free to contact us confidentially.

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