DEAR CARRIE: I work for a municipality, and my colleagues and I were recently told that we would have to travel to satellite offices to work. We were also told that we wouldn't receive compensation for the longer travel time, which can add as many as 15 miles to our commute one way. Since we are hourly is this policy legal? In the past when we had to work out of the main office, we received extra compensation for the longer travel time. — On the Road
DEAR ON: You are right to ask about this issue because hourly employees have to be paid for all the time they work. So the question becomes: Are those extra 15 miles considered time on the clock or just part of your regular commute?
If the longer drive is something you do regularly, the extra time might be considered part of your regular commute, and thus wouldn't be considered time worked. A regular commute is the distance you drive from your home to the office and the reverse at the end of the day.
On the other hand, if the longer trip is part of a temporary assignment, you might be able to make the case that the extended commuting time should be on the clock. For more information call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890.
DEAR CARRIE: I work in a family-support program for an agency that provides services for developmentally disabled people. I am a part-time, hourly employee, and I work four hours a day. My job entails picking up clients in the late afternoon, after they return home from their daily program. Then we go bowling or shopping or take a trip to the library or the park. Sometimes clients are delayed a few minutes on their way home, and staff are not allowed to log in their time by phone until the the client arrives home. I don't mind a few minutes wait. But yesterday my client was an hour late. I feel I should be paid for the hour. Am I wrong? — Waiting Without Pay
DEAR WAITING: You are not wrong. That time you have to wait on the client is known in federal labor law as being "engaged to wait." You are not free to go because the wait is part of your assignment. So you probably should be paid for that wait time. Call the U.S. Labor Department at the number above for more information.
DEAR READERS: Last week's question about a woman who said she received little help from her company after her paycheck never came in the mail because someone stole it and cashed it, drew an interesting response from a reader. Here it is:
"In regard to the person who had a payroll check stolen, it is unconscionable that her employer wouldn't help. The employer should have replaced the check immediately. No working person should go months without being paid. Their refusal to assist or to tell their employee who did it is very suspicious. The employer should sign an affidavit for the person's bank indicating the possible theft of the check. The check itself will have the signature of the person who cashed it and the bank account where the check was deposited. This way the thief can be identified. The bank accepted a forgery. That is its problem. I went through something like this some years ago, when I sent a check to the nurse who was taking care of my father. She never got one of the checks, which was stolen from her mailbox. I filled out the affidavit. I found out that someone had forged a signature and cashed the check at one of the check-cashing stores. The bank debited the check-cashing store and recovered the money. It turned out that the check-cashing store accepted a forged ID."
Go to bit.ly/commuteLI for more on when federal labor laws say travel time should be paid.