Question:

My employer has scheduled me to attend a one-day training seminar in San Francisco to update my employment skills for my job as an office assistant here in Monterey. I am paid by the hour and will be missing time from my usual work to attend. While my employer said he would pay for my time spent at the training seminar, he didn’t say that my travel time to San Francisco would be paid. Is my employer required to pay for my time traveling to San Francisco and back?

Answer:

Hourly employees are required to be compensated for all hours worked. California law defines the term “hours worked” to mean the time during which an employee is “suffered or permitted to work,” whether or not required to do so, and the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer. Although the time you spend commuting daily to and from your job site in Monterey is not compensable, you may be entitled to compensation for your travel time for your required attendance at an out of town training seminar.

Generally, as an hourly California employee normally assigned to a specific work location, your time spent traveling during either regular working hours or in addition to regular working hours will be considered hours worked, and therefore compensable, if the travel is required by your employer or is done pursuant to your employer’s instructions. Therefore, since your employer is requiring you to travel to San Francisco from Monterey, your employer is required to pay you for your round-trip travel time. Also, if your total hours worked, including compensable travel time, exceed eight hours in one day, your employer must pay you one and one-half times your regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of eight hours.

Your time spent driving, as a passenger in a car, taxi, bus, train, or airplane, or other mode of transportation, or waiting in traffic, to purchase a ticket, check your baggage, or get on board, is time spent under your employer’s control: you are carrying out your employer’s objectives of traveling to and from your training location in San Francisco. Such time is also compensable travel time.

Note, however, that your compensable travel time does not include time spent for meals, relaxation, or engaging in purely personal activities not connected with your travel or employment. Also, the time that you would normally spend traveling from your home to your usual prescribed place of employment is not included in compensable travel time. For example, if you spend four hours in direct round-trip travel time driving between Monterey and San Francisco, and it normally takes you ten minutes to drive round-trip between your home and your prescribed job site in Monterey, then three hours and fifty minutes of your round-trip travel time to and from your final training destination San Francisco would be compensable.

Also note that California law allows your employer to establish a different rate of pay for travel time, which rate must not be less than the minimum wage. In order to apply, your employer must have notified you of the different pay rate for the travel time prior to the commencement of your travel. For determining overtime pay when your employer has established a different rate of pay for travel time, California uses the “weighted average” method under which all hours worked in the week are added and the result is divided into the total compensation paid for the week. The result is the “weighted average” wage for purposes of determining overtime pay. If your employer pays you a different rate for your travel time, any overtime pay would be calculated at one and one-half times the “weighted average” rate.
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