Calculating Work Hours & Travel Time for CA Employees

Instructor: A. Casey Carr-Jones

Casey Carr-Jones holds a Bachelor's degree in English & Psychology. She is currently a PHR-certified Human Resources Consultant.

California labor law is notoriously different from many of the other states' laws. This lesson discusses how working hours and travel time are calculated for California employees.

California Employment and Labor Laws

John, a junior accountant for a bank in California, has just returned from a business trip. He is entering his hours worked into payroll when his supervisor walks past. 'Don't forget to include the travel time too, John,' she says. John, confused, asks her to explain what she means. She tells him, 'We can include the hours we spent on the train to Site B as part of our time sheet.'

The state of California has developed unique employment and labor laws for employees who work in their state, in order to better protect their citizens. One part of California's regulations that can be particularly troubling to employers is the counting and recording of employees' work hours (and the corresponding compensation that goes with it). Sometimes the definition of work hours is black and white, but many circumstances bring in shades of grey.

In this lesson, we will be focusing on non-exempt employees, which are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act who must be paid at least minimum wage and any overtime, if applicable. The Fair Labor Standards Act (or FLSA) established minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping rules, and more.

What are ''Work Hours''?

Work hours are, generally, hours an employee spends performing work on behalf of his or her company. Work hours are considered to be compensable time, meaning the employee should be paid for that work. Depending on the state, work hours might also include meals, breaks, or on-call hours. In California, some types of travel time may be considered work hours and are compensable.

Travel Time

There are several factors involved in determining if a non-exempt employee should be compensated for travel time. For example, commuting time (time an employee spends traveling from their home to their place of business) is not compensable. Many other types of travel time are considered work hours.

In California, work hours include company-mandated gatherings (off-site meetings, for example) that require employees to use the employer's transportation. Traveling to multiple work sites would also be compensable. In addition, traveling on an airplane, bus, train, or car during a business trip is considered work hours and is compensable. Even time spent purchasing a ticket or checking baggage is considered work hours.


Overtime is another important item for employers in the state of California to consider and track. In most states, overtime occurs when an employee works more than 40 hours in one work week, and must be paid one and a half times their hourly rate. In California, employees are also entitled to overtime if they work more than 8 hours in a workday, and for the first eight hours that are worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a work week. It is very important to accurately track hours worked, or a company could be subject to a lawsuit.

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