Travel time by an employee may be considered compensable work time under Massachusetts Wage and Hour Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers should be aware of exactly what travel time would be considered time worked and make sure they pay their employees according to these laws. In a class action complaint, Escorbor v. Helping Hands Co., Inc., employees of a home healthcare company claimed they were not fully paid for their “intra-day travel time” nor were they fully reimbursed for their “work-related transportation expenses.” The Plaintiff Class were home health care aides who had worked or still work for Helping Hands, who assisted elderly or infirm clients with personal health care, shopping, and cleaning or other housekeeping tasks in the clients’ homes. Helping Hands would schedule the aides to work at multiple clients’ homes each workday, requiring them to travel from client to client in their personal vehicles. Their employment agreement stated that they were to be paid $2.00 extra per hour to account for her travel time and expenses.
The law states that an employee required or directed to travel from one place to another after the beginning of or before the close of a work day shall be compensated for all travel time and shall be reimbursed for all transportation expenses. The transportation expenses are determined using the federal mileage rate, which as of 2015 is $0.575 per mile. Typically, the aides would travel up to a half hour between the clients’ homes in order to make the scheduled appointments. My math isn’t perfect, but I suspect $2.00 extra per hour does not fully compensate the aides according the federal mileage rate. Indeed, the Superior Court of Massachusetts stated that any travel exceeding 4 miles in one hour would completely consume the travel allowance of $2.00 and that the complaint alleges enough facts to support an argument of a plausible failure to pay the minimum wage for intra-workday travel as required by Massachusetts Law. Furthermore, Helping Hands failed to comply with its record-keeping obligations as to hours and travel expense, which, according to the Court, make it plausible that they knew that keeping the legally required records would show a violation. Essentially, Helping Hands, allegedly, not only failed to pay their employees for their travel time and adequately compensate them for travel expenses, they also tried to hide these violations by issuing pay stubs that did not indicate the total number of hours worked.
Employers should note that “travel time” specifically references the time in which an employee travels from one work site to another within the work day, as required or directed by the employer. This does not include commuting time to and from the workplace. It is extremely important for employers to keep accurate records of their employee’s travel time and transportation expenses, otherwise they could be subject to legal action as seen in Escorbor v. Helping Hands.