Should I be paid my hourly wage for drive time between jobs in the middle of the work day?

During the course of my job as a lead and asbestos inspector, I have to drive approximately 2 hours a day. I usually start at the office at 8 am and I leave the office to go to my first job shortly thereafter but I have to clock out once I step out the front door. I clock back in once I arrive at my first job by using an app on my phone. When I finish my first job I clock out and drive to the next one. I get reimbursed 0.54 per mile but when driving in the city this often works out to be less than my hourly wage once you take into account the amount I spend on gasoline and general maintenance. My company used to allow employees to stay clocked in for drive time and reimburse at a lower rate of 24 cents per mile but about a month before I was hired they change this policy. If I have an early job or a late job and I don’t have to go to the office before my first job or after my last job I have to deduct the 26 miles between my home and the office on my expense reports. So if I have up my first job between my office in my house I do not get paid at all to drive. When I bring this up to the supervisor I’m told that the 0.54 per mile is meant to compensate me for my time as well as my expense incurred by driving. I’m told that it’s not the company’s concern how far I live away from the office or where my jobs are. Personally I don’t think this is fair since I would be paid more money if I were reimbursed for my actual driving expense and allowed to stay clocked in between the hours of 8 and 5. I feel like I should be allowed to at least clock in once I get to my first job and then stay clocked in between jobs. I also feel like the company saying that I’m being paid through my expense check is cheating me out of paying into Social Security or my 401k. Is this wage theft? In order to get my 40 hours during the week I often have to work around 10 hours a day if you include drive time though I am only compensated for 8 because drive time is not included.

Asked on November 21, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

The following answer is based on your being an hourly employee--if salaried, you have no right to pay for travel time.
You don't have to be paid for your first commute of the day from home to work, or your last commute back home from work. (Or more accurately; if instead of going to the office, you go directly to a job site, you don't have to be paid for an amount of time equal to how long you'd normally spend commuting: e.g. if your commute to the office is 20 minutes, but you go instead to an inspection site 40 minutes away, you would not be paid for 20 minutes of that 40.) All drive time other than your normally daily commute to/from work, which includes all driving mid-day between jobs, IS considered compensible work time: you must be paid for it. The employer could set a lower wage for driving, so long as they give you notice of it and it is at least minimum wage, so they could legally choose to pay you at minimum for your driving. If you are not receiving at least your state's minimum wage as an hourly employee for mid-day driving, your employer is violating the labor law and you could file a complaint with the department of labor.
Note that while hourly employees do have to be paid for work-day travel, they do not have to receive mileage reimbursement--there is no law requiring that. So they may have to pay you, but could take away the reimbursement.


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