Is there a lawyer on the plane?
October 11, 2007 3:32 PM   Subscribe

[JobFilter] Hivemind, decide how much I should be paid.

I recently flew out of state to attend a conference with a my supervisor and a couple of my co-workers. I flew out of California Sunday afternoon, and flew back from Colorado Wednesday afternoon. I'm now looking at my bi-weekly time card, and I do not know how I should report the time. None of my co-workers have this problem: they're salaried, while I'm an hourly worker. There wasn't any real tracking of what hours were explicitly on-the-clock and what was off-the-clock, and those hours seemed to bleed into each other anyway. The travel expenses have been taken care of.

I talked with accounting, who seem a bit unsure about this as I do; they eventually said to list seven hours each day plus the hours for the plane flights. That seems like I'd be underreporting to me. I do want to get paid for as much as I can, but I don't want to exaggerate the claim (I work for a non-profit, so I'd loathe to take money for hours I didn't work.) It seems like at one end, I'd be paid for all the time I spent out-of-state (which sounds like way too much,) and on the other end, I be paid as if it were just a normal work day (which sounds like way too little.) Does anyone have any advise regarding this situation? Does the FLSA say anything about hourly workers sent out-of-town on business? Is this something I just have to negotiate with my employer where we just agree that I worked a certain amount of hours and leave it at that? Is there a formula somewhere I could use in this situation?
posted by Weebot to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I talked with accounting, who seem a bit unsure about this as I do; they eventually said to list seven hours each day plus the hours for the plane flights

That sounds reasonable. The situation you describe sounds like a not atypical consulting engagement. In that case, you are paid for hours worked + hours spent traveling as well. Also, they will cover your costs of the flight, the cost of your lodging AND meals.

But there's not an extra charge for "being away from home" beyond covering all your expenses.
posted by vacapinta at 3:37 PM on October 11, 2007

Your salaried cow-orkers are getting, in essence, 8 hours a day -- even if they work more, their payroll is calculated as though they work 40 hours a week. You should probably expect the same.

If you will be doing a lot of travel and the salaried guys make more money than you do, ask to be bumped to their pay grade.
posted by kindall at 3:37 PM on October 11, 2007

Thanks! That clear things up a lot.
posted by Weebot at 3:45 PM on October 11, 2007

seconding vacapinta. When I was a contract employee that's how I handled it.
posted by cabingirl at 3:48 PM on October 11, 2007

Yup, I'm hourly, and I travel quite a bit - it's actual hours worked (which usually means 8 a day) plus travel time.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:31 PM on October 11, 2007

The only qualifier is after-5 time. If you spent hours on your employer's business in the evening, include those as well.

Salaried people are expected to work nights, weekends, etc., but hourly people should be paid for hours worked.
posted by megatherium at 4:45 PM on October 11, 2007

California has very clear regulations about paying non-exempt staff, including how to handle travel. You get paid for travel time but not for non-working time in the hotel.

See Section 46 (esp 46.3.1) of California's DLSE manual, available on the state website.

46.3.1 Under state law, if an employer requires an employee to attend an out-of-town business meeting, training session, or any other event, the employer cannot disclaim an obligation to pay for the employee’s time in getting to and from the location of that event. Time spent driving, or as a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi cab or car, or other mode of transport, in traveling to and from this out-of-town event, and time spent waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board, is, under such circumstances, time spent carrying out the employer’s directives, and thus, can only be characterized as time in which the employee is subject to the employer’s control. Such compelled travel time therefore constitutes compensable “hours worked.” On the other hand, time spent taking a break from travel in order to eat a meal, sleep, or engage in purely personal pursuits not connected with traveling or making necessary travel connections (such as, for example, spending an extra day in a city before the start or following the conclusion of a conference in order to sightsee), is not compensable. If the employee’s travel from his home to the airport is the same or substantially the same as the distance (and time) between his home and usual place of reporting for work, thetravel time would not begin until the employee reached the airport. The employee must be paid for all hours spent between the time he arrives at the airport and the time he arrives at his hotel. No further “travel” hours are incurred after the employee reaches his hotel and is then free to choose the place where he will go. (O.L. 2002.02.21)

So, accounting is right to list the travel airplane time. But if you were "on duty" for more than 7 hours a day, then you should definitely get paid for those hours too, with overtime for time beyond 8 hours/day, and time beyond 40 hours/week, if the Sunday time put you over the 40-hour point. To compute the 40 hr/week guideline, you need to know what day of the week your organization's workweek officially begins/ends.

If you have an HR dept, they might be more up on this stuff than the folks in accounting.
posted by quinoa at 5:17 PM on October 11, 2007

I would bill for 7 hours a day + time spent traveling to and from the destination + any extra hours spent doing actual work. Don't bill for stuff like going out to lunch or dinner with your coworkers. If you worked 7 hours during the day, then sat in your hotel room all night and worked on work stuff, then you should add some hours in for that.

Traveling to meetings can be a sure fire way to incur overtime hours.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:36 PM on October 11, 2007

You should be paid for meal expenses, since you would incur extra expense even in buying groceries while on the road.
posted by acoutu at 7:41 PM on October 11, 2007

I would bill more or less as the CA manual seems to indicate. However, since I am a New Yorker, I spend a substantial amount of time getting to the airport and virtually none getting to the office on a normal day. So I would include much of the travel time to the airport and any money spent to accomplish said travel (taxis or parking primarily) plus any food.
posted by lackutrol at 9:50 PM on October 11, 2007

I work for a non-profit, so I'd loathe to take money for hours I didn't work.

Were you out of town, away from your home and family, for their benefit? Then, you did "work", even though you didn't do "work". You're paid for your time, not the actual work you do. I'm not condoning slacking off for your pay, but if you were out of town for 24 hours to do for them then their paying you for only 7 hours sounds like a heck of a bargain to me!
posted by Spoonman at 4:24 AM on October 12, 2007

I worked for a place where the "pay" for being at a conference was 8 hours a day (like usual) and then 8 hours of comp time for every day you were out of town. Perhaps you could propose that to your employers as a nice way to repay people for the stress and hassle of travel.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:20 AM on October 13, 2007

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