In California, travel time is when your employer requires you to be at a designated place and controls how you get there. Because of this control, travel time is compensable in California. It often occurs when your employer makes you go from one worksite to another, or use the employer’s transportation from a designated meet-up spot.
Five key things to know about travel time are:
- it does not cover your normal commute,
- it has to be at least the minimum wage,
- it can result in overtime pay,
- California laws are more generous to workers than federal law, and
- you may also get mileage reimbursement.
1. Travel time does not cover your normal commute
Under California law, your “hours worked” are those that your employer either:
- suffered or permitted you to work, or
- subjected you to the employer’s control.
California courts have ruled that this does not cover your normal commute to and from your work location. You can choose how to commute and can do purely personal pursuits on the way to or from the job site. Therefore, there is insufficient control exerted by your employer to make it compensable time.
However, there are some circumstances where your employer exerts enough control to change your commute time and entitle you to employee travel time.
For example: Raymond is a farm worker. His employer requires him to drive to a parking lot and then to take the employer’s bus to the work site. The portion of Raymond’s commute in the bus is compensable travel time because he is under the control of the employer.
2. Travel time pay has to be at least the minimum wage
California labor law requires all of your hours worked to be compensated with at least the minimum wage. This includes your travel time.
If your employment agreement does not specify your travel time pay, then it must be paid at your regular rate of pay. However, many employers specify a lesser hourly rate for travel time. So long as this different rate is at or above the minimum wage, it is allowed.
3. It can add work hours and entitle you to overtime pay
If you are a nonexempt worker, the hours you work in travel time can put you over the daily or weekly limit and entitle you to overtime pay.
California’s wage and hour laws protect nonexempt employees. They are entitled to:
- meal periods and rest breaks, and
- overtime pay.
That overtime pay is one-and-a-half, or 1.5, times your regular rate of pay. You get this higher rate of pay for every hour you work in excess of:
You can also be entitled to double-time pay, or twice your regular rate of pay, for hours worked more than:
- 12 hours in a single workday, or
- 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day of a workweek.
Because travel time is “hours worked,” it can push you over these limits and entitle you to the applicable overtime rate. Many workers do not realize how easily travel time can add to the number of their regular work hours.
4. California law is more generous than federal employment law
California employment law is more generous than federal law regarding travel time. Regulations for the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) define “work time” as when you are “suffered or permitted” to work. The extent of your employer’s control over you is not a factor under federal law.
This means that circumstances where your employer is controlling you but you cannot work would not be compensable under federal law. This makes it less likely that you would be entitled to travel pay under federal law.
5. Work-related travel can also entitle you to a mileage reimbursement
If you use your own transportation or personal vehicle during travel time, you may also be entitled to mileage reimbursement in California.
State law requires California employers to cover their employee’s expenses during employer-required travel. This includes reimbursing you for your:
- gasoline costs,
- vehicle depreciation from normal wear and tear,
- car maintenance and repair costs,
- fees for vehicle registration, and
- auto insurance.
Your employer must have a valid means or method of determining the amount of these reimbursements. Many companies use the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) reimbursement rates for travel expenses.
What can I do if my employer is not paying me travel time pay?
If your employer is not paying you for your travel time, you can file a wage and hour claim. This can recover your unpaid wages, plus interest and attorney’s fees and court costs. It can be filed as a lawsuit or as a claim with the Labor Commissioner at the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
 8 California Code of Regulations (CCR) 11040(2)(K) (also known as the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order No. 4-2001).
 California Labor Code 510 LAB.
 29 CFR 785.11.
 California Labor Code 2802 LAB.