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Employment Law/clocking in and travel pay

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Question
I am a non-exempt employee who works at a large health care facility encompassing many different floors and buildings. I work throughout the facility at a different location each shift and must get my assignment location for each shift. My department is instigating a new policy which requires workers to report to the department office at a set location at a set time to get the assignment for the shift, but then travel to another location to clock in.  The previous policy allowed workers to clock in when they received their assignment and then traveled to the assigned location.
I feel this new policy is in violation of Texas Labor Laws, and, possibly company policy, by requiring hourly employees to travel without pay to the assigned floor after reporting to the department.

Answer
Marg:

I am assuming it takes only a minute or two to get your assignment, and also assuming you are not required to perform any work during the time it takes you to travel, whether on foot or otherwise, from the first location to the place where you are assigned that day.  Under these facts, Federal law (the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA) provides that your work day does not begin until you actually clock in or begin performing "...the principal activity or activities which [you are] employed to perform."  Obtaining your work assignment is generally regarded as a "preliminary activity", not part of your "principal activity."   Texas law does not differ from the FLSA in this respect.

However, you also mentioned company policy.  If you believe the employer's policy may be being violated by this practice, you should definitely talk to your HR manager (or union steward, if you are represented) to explore that question.  While it would not be unlawful for your department to violate policy, the employer almost certainly would not want such a practice to continue.

I hope you find this helpful.

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Frank C. Magill

Expertise

I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.

Experience

30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

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Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

Education/Credentials
J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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