If you take a lot of business trips, you might be wondering whether you are getting paid enough. After all, an hour spent on work should count as work, whether you are traveling, sitting at your desk, or in a meeting, right?
In fact, the answer is more complicated. Employees are entitled to be paid for some of their travel time, but not all of it. Your right to get paid for travel time depends on whether you stay overnight, your regular work hours, and your commute to the airport or other travel hub.
You are not entitled to be paid for your regular commute: the time it takes you to drive or take public transit from your home to your regular worksite and back home at the end of the day. However, if employees are required to take employer-provided transportation from a central location to the worksite, this time may have to be paid.
Employees are also entitled to pay for travel time that's part of the day-to-day job. For example, if employees are required to go out on service calls, the time spent traveling to and from customer locations must be paid. Even an employee whose job doesn't ordinarily involve travel may be entitled to pay for travel time if the employee is required to come to the workplace at odd hours to deal with emergencies. For instance, an IT specialist who has to come in at night to handle an emergency could be entitled to pay not only for the hours spent in the workplace, but also for the time it took to get to and from work.
If you go on a one-day business trip, you must be paid for the time you spend traveling. However, the employer doesn't have to pay for the time it takes you to get to the airport or public transportation hub. This time is categorized as unpaid commuting time, even if it takes the employee longer than his or her ordinary commute.
If you spend more than a day out of town, the rules are different. Of course, you are entitled to pay for all of the time you spend actually working. However, your right to be paid for time spent in transit depends on the time of day when you travel.
You are entitled to pay for time spent traveling during the hours when you regularly work (that is, the time of day when you usually work), even if you usually work Monday through Friday but travel on the weekend.
To learn more, see Nolo's section on Your Rights to Fair Pay and Time Off Work.
For in-depth information about your rights to fair pay and more -- along with many examples -- see Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Repa (Nolo).