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Montana Travel Time

Posted by Tamara

A Montana employee asks, “I’m a carpenter and travel during the day between service calls. My employer pays me for travel time, but at a different rate than my work time. Is that legal?”

Yes. Federal travel time regulations are fairly complex. An employee’s time from home to the first work site, and the time from the last work site to home are not considered part of the job. Once the employee arrives at the first site, though, all travel between sites is considered “all in a day’s work” and therefore is paid time. This paid travel time, however, can legally be paid at a different rate.

For example, Francesco is an electrician in Montana. His work rate is $25 per hour and his travel time is paid at $10 per hour. He works 30 hours this week and travels for 10 hours. His total for the week is 40 hours, but his pay will be 30 hours at $25 per hour and 10 hours at $10 per hour.

Where paid travel time can get confusing is when overtime is involved. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that every employee who works more than 40 hours in one week is entitled to overtime pay at 1.5 times the worker’s usual hourly rate. Employers can legally pay a different rate for paid travel time, but they cannot pay it separately to avoid paying overtime.

Consider Francesco again. Last week he worked 25 hours and traveled 25 hours. His total for the week was 50 hours. He is entitled to overtime pay for the additional 10 hours. Because he receives two different rates of pay, his overtime is calculated using the average pay rate for the week, which is $17.50 per hour. He is entitled to overtime then at 1.5 times $17.50 or $26.25 per hour.

Failure by the employer to pay overtime is a violation of FLSA and is therefore illegal.

Note that different rules apply to work schedules which require an overnight stay, or to work performed at locations outside the normal commuting range.


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