Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: I am a physical therapist and an hourly employee at a large agency with many facilities. I am assigned to one facility but often have to travel to others. We are required to be productive at least 75 percent of the time, which means treating patients. The company doesn’t consider doing paperwork and traveling to see patients as productive time. Sometimes while at my home-base facility, I am asked to go to another location to fill in. So I take the subway, and spend 20 to 30 minutes to get to the facility. Since the company doesn’t consider the travel productive time, it does not get factored into my hours worked. So I don’t get paid for it. Instead I have to make up that time. So sometimes I wind up working overtime, again without getting paid for it. I also have to spend my own money to get to the other locations. I have two questions: Is it legal for my employer not to pay me for travel between our facilities, and should I be reimbursed for the subway fare? — On Whose Dime?

DEAR DIME: Since you are an hourly employee, your company has to pay you for all the time you work, and that includes the commute from one office to another.

“Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked,” the U.S. Labor Department states on its website.

What’s more, when you work more than 40 hours a week, you must be paid overtime for those extra hours.

Your regular commute from home to the office and back wouldn’t qualify as work time.

“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 website says.

Regarding the paperwork, the time you spend on it is also considered work, and as an hourly employee you must be paid for it, regardless of your company’s “unproductive” label.

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If you were a manager, which means you would have to be salaried, the company wouldn’t have to pay you for any extra time.

As for the subway fares, it’s up to the company to decide whether to reimburse you. If it doesn’t reimburse you for such expenses, you may be able to claim them as deductions on your taxes.

DEAR CARRIE: I work as a permanent substitute teacher in a public elementary school. I am not paid when school is closed for breaks. Am I eligible to collect unemployment benefits for the summer? — Break Benefits?

DEAR BREAK: Probably not. State unemployment insurance law exempts teachers and other personnel employed by educational institutions from applying for unemployment benefits during breaks if they have a “reasonable assurance” they will be hired back when classes resume.

So what constitutes “reasonable assurance” for someone like yourself who is a permanent substitute?

“You receive written or verbal notification that you will be placed on a substitute list; that list will be used for placing substitutes; there is a reasonable expectation that sub positions will exist; and you can expect to earn at least 90 percent of the prior term’s remuneration (including wages and benefits),” the state Labor Department’s website says.

If that describes your situation, you wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment benefits when school is out.