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When can you get paid for your commute in California?

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2023 | Wage & Hour Law

Knowing whether your work commute or waiting time while working on-call qualifies as paid work time is essential in California. According to California’s wage and hour laws, any work performed on behalf of an organization is compensable. However, limitations and exceptions apply and the following provides considerations that can help you determine if your commute or your stand-by time qualifies for compensation under California law.

Working on-call

According to wage & hour law, if you are working on-call or on standby outside of the work site, the compensability of your down time depends on the company’s level of control and the restrictions placed by your employer. For example, considerations include the company’s restrictions on your freedom, whether the company requires you to be on-site on a moment’s notice, whether you can reject the on-call responsibilities, and how your on-call status impacts personal activities.

However, on-call or standby time at the work site is considered hours worked for which you must be compensated, even if you do nothing but wait for something to happen. The tasks performed do not matter.  Your employer’s compensation rates may differ for on-call or standby time versus regular work time.

Commute vs travel time

Your regular commute from home to your usual work site does not typically qualify as paid travel time. However, in some cases, your employer may require you to use a company vehicle or require you to meet at a specific place so that you can be transported to your work site. Under these circumstances, your travel time may counts as compensable work hours.

If travel time for work exceeds your standard commute time, this also may become compensable. Your travel time is compensable for business-related trips, including waiting time, if under your employer’s control.

Compensation rates

If you are a non-exempt employee, you may receive a lower compensation rate for travel time than your usual pay rate. Depending on the compensation agreement, the rate may be as low as minimum wage.

If you and your employer agree on a fixed hourly rate, travel time must be compensated at the same or required overtime rate, if applicable. Employers can legally establish a separate pay rate for travel before work hours if the rate exceeds the minimum wage.

Understanding the factors involved can help you determine your commute’s compensability. Knowing the parameters of the relevant laws can ensure that you can protect your rights according to state labor regulations.