Jesus thinks you should compensate us fairly!
March 15, 2013 10:05 AM   Subscribe

My employer requires me to travel to a meeting 20 miles away once a week. They do not pay gas or mileage for this and as of today, are refusing to compensate for travel time as well. Is this legal?

I'll try to keep it short and concise.

I work for a religious non-profit in Missouri. We have a food pantry / other ministries in one town and another food pantry / ministries in a close-by smaller town. Only 4 employees work at the latter ministry, of which I am one.

We are required to attend mandatory prayer meetings once a week at a church in the town in which most of our employees work. At first, we were told the 4 employees that had to drive a distance could all carpool in the company vehicle so none would be out gas expense or mileage on their vehicles. After some time this policy was changed and we 4 employees have to transport ourselves to the meetings with no compensation for mileage, gas, etc.

Since these meetings began, the 4 employees who drive from farther away have been compensated for arriving early to work on meeting days. We typically are required to be here by 8:45 but on meeting days we must be here at least 15 minutes early to be at the meeting on time. Management now says that from now on, meeting day pay will not include that extra 15 minutes. We will only be compensated for normal hours, starting at the usual 8:45 and despite the fact that they are well aware we must all be here early.

Looking through Missouri labor laws, I'm finding that I'm not sure this is legal. Can an employer REQUIRE an employee to travel away from their home base and not compensate them for that travel time?
posted by youandiandaflame to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can deduct the mileage on your taxes. According to this Dept of Labor document, you should be paid for travel time. Keep in mind this is a random google-fu find.
posted by shoesietart at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

this sounds to me like picking the wrong battle to fight even if technically you may be in the right. the only angle I would fight this on if any is appealing to compassion that the gas bill is hard for you to foot and could they help you out by giving you a ride or something.

I mean, you get paid for the hours at the mandatory prayer right? I'm assuming that the nature of your organization allows for compulsory prayer which would normally be wacky. Assuming that the nature of your organization necessarily defines you as someone who "should" be doing these prayers anyway in your free time, they probably feel like they're being generous already.

There are all sorts of little incongruencies in a job-place that are technically illegal, but fighting them will only make you look bad and dispensable on an attitude basis.
posted by cacao at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

According to this Dept of Labor document, you should be paid for travel time.

Not if it is travel from OP's home to the prayer meeting.

I do not think you are owed any mileage from the employer. You can deduce the mileage on the car at the rate per mile set forth here. Or, you can use the actual costs of operating the vehicle for those miles.

If the employer requires for your job that you be there at 8:30, that is when pay needs to begin, assuming that you are an hourly employee. If you are salaried, your pay will not change. If you want to raise a fuss over 15 minutes per week, be my guest. You will be shooting yourself in the foot.

I have done very little employment law, so I welcome correction on any of these point.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:21 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not a lawyer (or any kind of authority figure), but if they are paying you for the driving time then you are considered on the clock and their insurance could be liable if you get into an accident during that time. I don't know if this is the reason for the change, but it is one angle they may be considering.
posted by Glinn at 10:38 AM on March 15, 2013

Employee's are traveling from their place of business to the prayer meeting site, not from home to work.

Traveling for business during business hours, from one business site to another business site, puts these employees on the company's clock, no?
posted by jbenben at 10:44 AM on March 15, 2013

General concepts to help you think about the issues involved. Not legal advice. If you want legal advice, see a lawyer in your jurisdiction. But here is some background to this.

If you are an exempt, salaried employee you need not be paid for travel time.

If you are non-exempt and salaried, you need not be paid for travel time unless it means you're working overtime as a result.

If you are non-exempt and hourly, you need to be compensated for at least the 15 minutes you are required to be there early.

Regarding the commute, generally, as long as you go straight from home to work, you will not be compensated for travel time even if your employer requires you to work at different work locations, some of which have longer commutes. In the earlier example where the employer required you to meet and drive together, yes, you probably should have been compensated for that time under standard wage and hour law principles (assuming you were non-exempt).

The part about the "well there early" is critical, because if you're actually required to be there early, your employer has an obligation to pay you (assuming you're a non-exempt hourly employee). It's unclear what "well aware" means here, and it would be good if this were clarified.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:44 AM on March 15, 2013

To clarify: I meet another employee AT WORK and together, we take the work vehicle to our meetings. I ride home from the meetings with a different employee and I compensate her for wear and tear on her vehicle and gas. My employer knows of and is fine with this arrangement. I am non-exempt and hourly.

It's unclear what "well aware" means here, and it would be good if this were clarified.

Well aware means that my employer knows we all live and work 20 minutes from our meeting site. They know that I must leave either my house or our building by 8:30 to be at the meeting by 9:00.

this sounds to me like picking the wrong battle to fight even if technically you may be in the right.

It very well may be which is why I haven't actually committed to fighting the battle. My question was not whether I should but whether it was legal or not for my employer to not compensate me for that time...
posted by youandiandaflame at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wait, this is unclear.

You have, once a week, a meeting to go to at a different location. This appears to be first thing in the morning and you choose to carpool and meet at your office, but you could go there directly from home? Because in this case, I don't think you need to be paid for travel time or expenses to this meeting.

However, assuming this meeting ends in the morning and you are required to go from there to your normal office location, you should be paid for the travel time back to the office and for gas and mileage.
posted by jeather at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2013

If you choose to meet your co-worker at work because that is more convenient for you than commuting separately from your home or meeting elsewhere, the travel time is not likely to be considered time worked for which the employer must compensate you. The situation in which the employer would be likely to have to compensate you for this time is if, say, your workday starts at 7 am, you work from 7 to 8, and then you both leave from work at 8 to go to the meeting. Another situation where the employer would likely have to compensate you is if the employer said, "Okay, everyone who attends this meeting must leave directly from work." But it sounds like they're not doing that anymore.

You should, on the other hand, be paid for all time after the meeting starts until you leave work for the day, even if that includes time spent driving back to the office from the prayer meeting. It sounds from your question that you are.

Also, if by "well aware," your employer just knows where you live in relation to the meeting place, it doesn't matter. What matters is whether the employer is requiring you to be there early. You suggest that the employer requires you to be there early, but it wasn't clear to me. The issue is when you're required to be working. If your employer is requiring you to be somewhere at a certain time, the general rule is that from that time on, you're working. So if the employer says, "Meeting starts at 9. Be there by 830," the general rule is that you're working as of 830. If the employer says "Be there by 9," but knows that because of your bus schedule or train schedule or car pool schedule or whatever that you'll inevitably arrive at the destination by 830, the presumption would be that you're not working (and the employer wouldn't need to pay you for that 30 minutes prior to the meeting).

General rule is that the employer doesn't pay you for your commuting time, which is why it matters whether or not you are required to leave directly from work (either because the employer directs you to, or because the meeting is some time after you've already been at work for the day).

Missouri law might differ (although I doubt it). But, if you want an actual advice on this, you should check with a lawyer in your jurisdiction. You could also call the Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations and see if they will take a complaint.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older California Cycling Sonoma and/or Yosemite?   |   Help me write my sign Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.