Question: Due to the U.S. Open traffic this weekend I expect it will take my employees longer to make deliveries and perform other tasks outside the office during the work day.  Do I have to pay them for sitting in traffic?


Answer: Yes, time spent by your non-exempt employees performing work tasks that require travel is compensable, even when it takes your non-exempt employees longer to perform their tasks because of traffic.  Additionally, if they end up working more than 8 hours in a day because of that travel time, they will be entitled to overtime pay.


The Industrial Welfare Commission Orders define “hours worked” as the “time during which the employee is subject to the control of an employer.” For example, time spent commuting to and from work is not considered “hours worked,” and a commute made longer due to traffic is not compensable.  However, when employees are on the road making deliveries and performing other employer directed tasks, they are under the employer’s control, and if traffic causes these employees to take longer to perform these tasks, all of that time is compensable.  California law does not distinguish between hours worked during and outside the employer’s “normal” business hours.


It should also be noted that under state law, if an employer requires an employee to attend an out-of-town business meeting, training session, or any other event, whether the outing involves same day or overnight travel, the employer is obligated to pay for the employee’s time in getting to and from the location of that event. Time spent driving, or as a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi cab or car, or other mode of transportation, in traveling to and from this out-of-town event, and time spent waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board, is time spent carrying out the employer’s directives and is compensable.  However, time spent taking a break from travel in order to eat a meal, sleep or engage in purely personal pursuits not connected with traveling or making necessary travel connections (such as, for example, spending an extra day in a city before the start or following the conclusion of a conference to sightsee), is not compensable.


The rate at which the travel must be paid depends upon the nature of the compensation agreement. If the employer has agreed to pay a fixed hourly rate of pay for any work performed, then travel time must be paid at that regular hourly rate, and if overtime is incurred, the required overtime rate based on the regular hourly rate must be paid.  However, an employer may establish a separate rate of pay for hourly employees for travel time as long as advance notification has been provided to the employees, and provided the rate does not fall below the statutory minimum wage.


In addition to travel time, employers are required to reimburse employees for necessary expenses incurred in connection with employer-required travel. The most common form of employee expense reimbursement related to travel is mileage reimbursement when the employee uses the employee’s own vehicle for work related travel. The safest approach is to use the IRS mileage reimbursement rate.  The 2019 rates can be found at


As we welcome golf fans to the Peninsula employers need to be aware of potential employment related issues caused by the traffic and plan accordingly.