Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: We work for a company that sometimes conducts mandatory training sessions in New York City. We have to attend these sessions and are paid for travel time to and from them, but the company refuses to pay us overtime. So when we rack up more than 40 hours because we are stuck in traffic, the company still pays us straight time, not overtime. When we are traveling, we are still on the clock because the company requires us to come into the office to punch in before heading to the city and makes us return to punch out. So we don’t understand how the company can justify not paying us overtime. What do you think? — Unhappy Trails
DEAR UNHAPPY: If you are hourly workers, you have to be paid overtime when you work more than 40 hours a week. And whether you rack up those extra hours while traveling to a training site or working in the office, you have to be paid time and a half for them.
By law your company doesn’t have to pay you for your regular commute. Here’s what the U.S. Department of Labor’s website says.
“An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his/her home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home-to-work travel, which is not work time,” the department says.
But labor law considers you on the clock when you have to travel from the office to a worksite, or to a training site, in this case.
“It’s not commuting time to and from work,” said Irv Miljoner, who heads the Labor Department’s Long Island office. “It’s hours worked.”
So in your case, the time spent traveling to the training site after you punch in and your trip back to the office are considered hours worked. Even when you are stuck in traffic during this time, you are on the clock. So if that delay puts you over 40 hours for the workweek, you must be paid overtime for those extra hours.
For more information call the Labor Department at 516-338-1890.
DEAR CARRIE: My employer is sending all us bus drivers for a medical exam at the same time to save money. It’s even hired its own doctor. The problem is that most of us just recently took the state-mandated medical exam. But the company is demanding that all its drivers be re-certified medically whether they need to be or not. And to add insult to injury, the company is refusing to pay for the time needed to get the medical exam done. I feel the company should pay, because it is requiring this extra checkup, not the state. Am I right? — RX for Payment
DEAR RX: You are right. Since the company is essentially demanding that you put in the time to repeat a medical exam, it has to pay you for the time, especially if you take the exam during working hours. If the exam were a requirement for people to get the job, then the company could legally refuse to pay applicants for the time and expense associated with the exam.
“Once you have the job, if the employer is directing you to get a medical certification, it’s considered hours worked, and it has to be paid,” Miljoner of the Labor Department said. “That’s especially true if someone already got a medical certification and is being asked by the employer to take another medical exam.”
He referenced a section of the Code of Federal Regulations that details why you should be paid for that time.
Section 785.43 says: “Time spent by an employee in waiting for and receiving medical attention on the premises or at the direction of the employer during the employee’s normal working hours on days when he is working constitutes hours worked.”