Question: My employees meet at the designated work location. Upon arrival, their foreman tells them the location of the worksite for that day. Some of the employees do not own vehicles and carpool with their co-workers from the designated work location to the assigned worksite. Do I have to pay employees for the travel to the assigned worksite and separately reimburse the employees who use their own vehicles?
Answer: Yes. The employer must compensate the employees for travel time between the worksites and separately reimburse employees who use their own vehicles to travel from the designated location to the assigned worksite for mileage.
Generally, commute time to and from work does not constitute hours worked and is not compensable. This is true whether the employee works at a fixed location or at different job sites. However, travel time during the workday must be counted as hours worked if it is related to the employee's job and is compensable.
Here, the employees are required to report to an initial location and are subsequently told to go to a different worksite. Therefore, the employees are entitled to compensation from the time of their arrival at the designated location and for any travel time to the assigned worksites during the workday.
Additionally, under the California Labor Code, the employer must reimburse employees for the mileage when employees use their personal vehicles for the company's business. The compensable commute time (in this example - travel between the assigned worksites) triggers the requirement for mileage reimbursement for the compensable time. The test for reimbursement under the law is whether the employee expense or loss was incurred within the course and scope of employment. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ("DLSE") generally accepts the use of the IRS mileage allowance to satisfy the expenses incurred in use of an employee's car.
Here, employees who use their personal vehicles to travel to an assigned worksite from a designated location are doing so within the course and scope of their employment because the travel is required by the employer. Additionally, some of the employees give rides to their co-workers to the assigned worksites, which is also work related. Therefore, the company must reimburse those employees for their mileage for the travel to the assigned worksites. This would be a separate reimbursement in addition to compensation for travel time to the assigned worksite. The employees must be reimbursed for mileage regardless of whether they provide rides to their co-workers voluntarily or at the request of the employer because the employees are using their personal vehicles for work related purposes i.e. travel to the assigned location.
Counsel to Management: If a company decides to provide mileage reimbursement when it did not do so before, the company may be admitting liability to the employees. The same is true if the company begins payment for time worked during travel when it has not done so before. Both of these changes should be coordinated through counsel with an assessment of whether the new policy should be coupled with a voluntary pay-out to employees for past liability. For help or questions regarding mileage reimbursement or compensable travel time, please contact The Saqui Law Group.