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Travel Time Pay Rules in California (2024): The Ultimate Guide

Posted January 31, 2020 by lewislaw & filed under Employment Law Articles .

Travel Time Pay Rules in California (2020)

Last Updated:

  • January 18, 2024

A comprehensive guide to travel time pay rules in California —when employees are entitled to be paid for travel time and how to recover those lost wages.

Unpaid travel time can exceed over $100,000 in lost wages, interest and penalties.

Find out how much of your travel time should be paid and how you can recover it.

Article Contents:

Section #1: types of travel time that should be paid, types of travel time that should be paid.

Section 1 - Travel That Should Be Paid

  • Time when you actually perform work (i.e. sending email, making phone calls, etc.); OR
  • Time when you do not actually perform work (and might even be doing personal things like checking the internet, texting and making personal calls), but when your employer exercises enough control over you that the law considers it working time.

When is an employee considered to be "Performing Work"?

Unlike John, however, Mary is required, on her way to work, to drive to a secure storage facility to pick up the tools she will use for that day. On the way home from work, she is required to return to the storage facility to unload the tools, clean them, and make sure they are locked up for the night. 

Mary is entitled to be compensated for the time spent loading, unloading, and cleaning the tools, as well as for the time she spends traveling between the storage facility and company headquarters. This is because these activities add time and exertion beyond what her normal commute would require. In other words, she is performing actual work for her employer during that time.

When is an employee “subject to control” of the employer?

Many legal cases considering whether an employee should be paid for travel time focus on the issue of whether the employee was “subject to the control” of the employer during the travel time. The key question is what does your employer require you to do?

  • Does your employer require you to travel to work in a company vehicle?
  • Does your employer require to follow certain when traveling to or returning from work each day?

Examples where the employee should be paid for travel time

  • When the employer provides transportation to a jobsite (example: a bus) and requires that employees only use that form of transportation to get to work.
  • When the employee has already reported to the worksite at the beginning of a shift and then the employer instructs the employee to travel to other locations.
  • When the employee is required to engage in overnight travel (for example, if the employee is required to take an airplane to attend a conference in another state, the employee must be compensated for time traveling, as well as time spent checking bags, going through security screening, etc.).

Examples where the employee is not entitled to be paid for travel time

  • When the employee is making the normal commute between home and work.
  • When the employer provides transportation to a jobsite (example: a bus or company van) but does not require that employees use of that mode of transportation to arrive at the job.
  • When, during required overnight travel, the employee takes time to do personal things like go out to dinner, go sight-seeing, or sleep.

[ return to top ] 

Section #2: When Should You Be Paid For Travel Time?

When should you be paid for travel time.

Section 2 - When You Should Be Paid For Travel Time

Travel when overnight stay is required

  • Conferences
  • Sales meetings
  • Continuing education requirements

From the Law:

Travel from one workplace to another in the same day, travel from home to work when there is no fixed workplace, if you are required to report to a work location that is farther away than your normal work location., if you have no fixed job site and are required to travel an unreasonable distance to get to work., travel from home to work in a work vehicle, travel when you work from home (virtual or remote employees).

More than 8 million people now work exclusively from home. In California nearly 6% of workers work from home , a percentage that almost doubles when you look at some locations in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas.

Section #3: How Much Should You Be Paid for Travel Time?

How much should you be paid for travel time.

Section 3 - How Much You Should Be Paid For Travel Time

You must be paid at least minimum wage or your regular hourly rate for travel time.

Employers can pay a lower hourly rate for travel time..

  • Provide you notice prior to the travel time.
  • Separately track your travel time.
  • Separately list your travel time, including the total hours traveled and your travel time rate on each pay stub.

Section #4: How to Calculate Your Travel Time Pay

How to calculate your travel time pay.

Section 4 - How to Calculate Travel Time Pay

Calculating your travel time pay

How to calculate overtime (based on travel hours), reimbursement for travel expenses (mileage), section #5: how to recover your travel time pay, how to recover your travel time pay.

Section 5 - How to Recover Travel Time Pay

There are strict time limits for recovering your unpaid travel time

Recovering travel time pay while you are still working at the company.

  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Firing/Termination
  • Reduction in Pay
  • Reassignment of Position
  • Other Adverse Employment Actions

Recovering travel time pay if you do not want to file a lawsuit

Section #6: choosing the right attorney, choosing the right attorney.

Section 6 - Choosing Right Attorney for Travel Time Pay Case

Questions You Can Use to Interview Attorneys

  • Do you practice employment law?
  • What is your level of experience dealing with travel time cases?
  • Have you had favorable outcomes? (Most attorneys will be able to answer this question. But they might not be able to tell you how much they have won in these types of cases if there is a confidentiality agreement in place. Attorneys are obligated to keep confidential settlements confidential.)
  • What do you think is the best strategy for handling my case keeping in mind my goals? (tell the attorney about your goals for resolving the case)
  • How long will it take to resolve my case?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • What does your fee include and exclude?

After speaking with the attorney, consider the following questions:

  • Was the attorney responsive?
  • Did the attorney answer your questions?
  • Did the attorney inspire confidence in you that he or she knew the subject matter?
  • Is the attorney someone you feel you can trust?

Section #7: Hire an Experienced Travel Time Pay Attorney

Hire an experienced travel time pay attorney.

Section 7 - Hire an Experienced Travel Time Pay Attorney

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Counting and Recording Hours of Work: Travel Time, Overtime & More

A variety of California and federal laws govern your counting and recording of employees' working hours and compensation. Under certain circumstances "working hours" may include such activities as travel time and education/training time.

Common Mistake

  • Not paying required overtime premiums.

Workdays and Workweeks Defined

Having a clearly defined workday and workweek is important because it affects your overtime obligations to employees.

Best Practices

  • Once you define a workday and workweek, stay consistent.
  • Familiarize yourself with the "seventh-day" overtime rule.

Hours of Work Limitations

Various federal and state requirements impose limitations on work hours. HRCalifornia can help you determine which to follow when federal and state regulations conflict.

Rest Breaks and Meal Periods

You have certain legal requirements regarding employee meal and rest breaks in California.

Piece Rate Workers

California employers must pay piece rate workers for rest and recovery periods and other non-productive time at specified minimum hourly rates, separate from the piece rate compensation.

Paid Non-working Time Overview in California

There are times when you need to pay a nonexempt employee for time not spent working. If you pay a special rate for travel time, or other special circumstances, you must establish and communicate the rate to employees in advance of the event. The amount and duration depend on what the employee is doing during that time.

Travel Time Pay

Under certain circumstances, you may be required to pay your employees for their travel time.

Pay For Education and Training Time

If you require employees to attend lectures, work courses, employer-sponsored training programs, or employee meetings, you must count that time as hours worked for pay purposes.

Makeup Time Pay

Makeup time allows an employee to request time off for a personal obligation and make up the time without receiving overtime pay. Under certain conditions, you may allow makeup time, upon request from an employee, but you are not obligated to do so.

Compensatory Time Off

Private employers subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are forbidden from offering compensatory time off (CTO) in lieu of paying overtime wages.

Time Keeping and Recording

You must maintain an accurate record of employees' hours of work and compensation. Failure to do so may force you to disprove what an employee claims to have been his/her actual work hours.

Time Keeping Exceptions for Specific Industries

Due to the operational needs of certain industries, the California Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders allow for specific variations in how hours of work are recorded, how records are maintained, and how certain types of hours are treated for pay purposes.

Working Hours for Minors

California and federal labor laws place certain limitations on the number of hours minors may work, as well as the spread of those hours, depending on the worker's age, the industry and the season of the year. Extended working hours may be allowed under certain circumstances.

Related Resources

CalChamber members have access to several tools and services that help those who manage human resources to work through counting and recording work hours issues, including:

Meal and Rest Break Quiz » How much do you know about meal and rest breaks? Use this quiz to test your knowledge.

Meal and Rest Periods Policy » Use this policy to remind employees of legally required meal and rest breaks to ensure employees understand that your obligations to provide such breaks are met.

Meal Break Waiver » Use this form when you have a nonexempt worker who will work a shift of six hours or less and both you and the worker wish to waive the required 30-minute meal break.

Meal Break Waiver - Second Meal » Use this form when you have a nonexempt worker whose shift will be more than 10 hours but less than 12 hours, the worker has not waived his first meal break, and both you and the worker wish to waive the second required 30-minute meal break.

Alternative Workweek Calendar » You can use this calendar as an example of an alternative workweek schedule, noting the restrictions associated with alternative workweeks.

Makeup Time Checklist » If you are considering a makeup time policy for your employees, use this checklist before implementing the policy to make sure you are covering all the key issues.

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Employee Travel Reimbursement – The Law in California

Under California labor laws, you are entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses or losses directly related to your job. If your employer tries to shortchange you or fails to reimburse you for work-related travel expenses, you may be able to recover compensation by filing a claim or lawsuit.

Below, our California labor and employment attorneys discuss the following frequently asked questions about lawsuits for unpaid travel expense reimbursement:

  • 1. What travel expenses does my employer have to reimburse in California?

2. What if I combine personal travel with work-related travel?

3. does my employer have to reimburse me for mileage in my own car.

  • 4. Can I file a lawsuit to get unpaid travel expenses reimbursed in California?
  • 5. Can my boss fire me for filing a claim for travel expenses?

Also see our article on vacation pay .

Under California labor laws, you are entitled to travel expenses or losses directly related to your job.

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. What travel expenses does my employer have to reimburse?

Under the California Labor Code, an employer is required to work expense reimbursement reimburse an employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred that are directly related to the job. This includes expenses as a “direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.” 1

Travel Expenses

Travel expenses for employees depend on the

  • type of job,
  • amount of travel,
  • amount of time away from home, and
  • employer’s travel expense policy.

California labor laws require employers to reimburse employees for all losses and expenditures that directly result from an employee’s work duties. 2

Many workers are confused over employer reimbursement because there is are conflicting policies. California labor law provides a blanket explanation for reimbursable expenses. However, an employer’s policy may provide a different description of what is available for reimbursement.

In addition, there are Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations on what types of business expenses are deductible and what might be considered income. However, the IRS regulations on travel expenses generally relate to tax liability and not related to what California employers are required to reimburse. 3

Common Travel Expenses

Travel expenses subject to reimbursement generally include any work-related expenses incurred when the employee is away from the office. Common travel expenses may include:

  • Travel time
  • Mileage expense
  • Hotels and motels
  • Parking fees
  • Taxi or cab fees
  • Bus/Metro/Subway fares
  • Business center expenses (copy, fax, printing)
  • Phone and internet access charges
  • Conference registration fees
  • Currency conversion fees for foreign travel
  • Postage for sending work materials

Employers may put specific limits on travel expenses, such as limiting air travel to economy class or requiring a maximum reimbursement subject to the lowest cost airfare. Employers may also require employees to book travel arrangements through a preferred travel agent or designated department.

Employers may also place maximum limits on certain travel, including maximum hotel rates and maximum meal reimbursements. However, they cannot require an employee to pay out-of-pocket for any costs above those limits if they are expenses paid in the performance of the employee’s duties. An employer may not violate California labor laws simply because they have a more restrictive company policy. 4

Example : Barney has to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a series of company meetings. Barney will stay in San Francisco for 3 nights before returning to Los Angeles. Barney’s company has a per diem rate of $120 per night for hotels. Barney cannot find any hotel or motel within 30 miles of the meeting location for under $120 per night. The cheapest hotel Barney found is in Oakland for $150 per night. Barney tells his boss the hotel is more expensive than the per diem rate and Barney’s boss says Barney has to be at that meeting but he will not be compensated for more than the per diem rate. Barney submits his travel expenses for $450 for three nights at the hotel. Barney would likely be eligible for full reimbursement of his hotel expenses because they were incurred in carrying out his job duties and at the direction of his employer. The employer’s per diem would not override the company’s legal obligations to reimburse the employee for reasonable work expenses.

However, just because an employee spends money during a work trip does not mean the expense is work-related. Personal entertainment, such as going out a movie or taking a friend out to dinner, is generally not work-related.

Example : Barney’s per diem rate for meals is $60 per day for San Francisco. Barney submits his expense report for $350 for meals over three days because he took an old friend out to dinner at an exclusive sushi restaurant, which cost $250. Barney’s employer may limit Barney to the maximum $180 per diem reimbursement for meals because taking a friend out to an expensive dinner is not a reasonable work-related expense.

Company Credit Card

Company credit cards are usually billed directly to the employer.

Many employers provide certain employees with a credit card to use for work-related expenses. In general, these cards are billed to the company and the employee does not incur any expenses or losses when using the card. However, the employee is still entitled to reimbursement for reasonable cash expenses and any travel expenses incurred on a personal credit card.

Combining work-related and personal travel will depend on the employee’s expense policy, federal tax law, and California labor law. In general, when employees combine personal and work-related travel they are only required to be compensated for the travel expenses directly related to performing work duties.

Example : Martin works at an office in San Bernardino and has to go to a two-day trade show in Philadelphia. Martin is a military history buff and wants to add a trip to Gettysburg. Martin extends his 3-day and night hotel rental by one night and his car rental by one day to accommodate his side-trip.

In general, Martin should be reimbursed for his round-trip airfare, 3 nights hotel, 3 days worth of meals, 3 days of a car rental, gas used during those three days. However, Martin may have to pay out of pocket for his extra day’s meals, hotel, gas, and car rental because his side trip to Gettysburg was not work-related.

If your employer requires you to drive as part of your job, your employer must reimburse you for work-related driving costs. This may include running occasional errands for your employer, or a traveling salesman who spends many hours every week driving around.

Commuting time and expenses of driving from your home to and from work are generally not included. However, if your employer asks you to run an errand on your way to work, that would be considered a work-related expense that should be reimbursed.

In most cases, an employer will reimburse an employee based on the IRS guidelines for standard mileage. In 2023, the standard mileage reimbursement for business-related driving is 62.5 cents per mile driven. This number is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle. 5

The IRS standard reimbursement rate includes the cost of regular maintenance and repairs (such as oil changes and tire replacement).

However, an employer may also reimburse an employee for the employee’s actual driving expenses. This method is usually more burdensome on the employee and the employer. Driving costs would generally include gas, repairs, insurance, depreciation, registration, and regular maintenance. The employee and employer would then have to determine what amount of costs were incurred for business use. 6

Example : Daryl drives his 1991 Toyota Celica 30 miles each way to and from work every workday. One day a week, Daryl uses his personal car to drive 10 miles each way to pick up company reports from the printer, reimbursed at the standard mileage rate. Daryl’s boss asks him to pick up coffee for everyone on the way into work. However, during this coffee run, Daryl’s trusty car finally breaks down and he has to buy a new car. Daryl’s employer has to reimburse Daryl for his 20-mile weekly printer pick up trip as a work-related drive. Daryl’s employer may also have to reimburse Daryl for the morning coffee drive as it was directed by his employer. However, Daryl’s employer is generally not liable to pay for Daryl’s car repairs or a new car. The costs of regular maintenance are rolled into the standard mileage reimbursement rate.

4. Can I file a lawsuit for unpaid travel expenses?

If an employer fails to reimburse an employee for reasonable work-related travel expenses, the employee may be able to file a lawsuit for compensation. An employee may be able to seek reimbursement of necessary expenditures, as required by California labor law.

Damages for unpaid work losses or expenses also include interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions. 7

In addition to recovering travel expenses, an employee may be able to seek “necessary expenditures or losses” related to claiming those expenses. In a court action, these necessary expenditures may include attorney’s fees and court costs. 8

When an employer violates the California Labor Code, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office may also issue a citation against an employer. The commissioner may issue a citation with financial penalties against an employer for violating California’s travel reimbursement obligations. Any amount recovered by the commissioner will be paid to the employee. 9

In many cases, an employer may be in violation of California labor laws against multiple employees. A company’s unlawful travel expense policy may leave many employees under-compensated. Successful travel reimbursement class action lawsuits often involve unpaid reimbursement for travel expenses or losses.

5. Can my boss fire me for claiming travel expenses?

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights under California labor laws. 10

An employer shall not take retaliatory action, including termination, against an employee for citing wage and hour violations or filing an unpaid expense lawsuit. Firing an employee for filing a labor violation claim may be considered “wrongful termination” .

If an employer retaliates against an employee for bringing a labor violation lawsuit, the employee may be able to seek damages for lost wages, including interest and reasonable attorney’s fees. The employee may also be able to seek reinstatement to their job or other equitable relief.

Legal References:

  • Labor Code 2802  — Obligations of Employer (“(a) An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.”)
  • See IRS Tax Topic 514 – Employee Business Expenses.
  • Labor Code 2804 LC — Obligations of Employer (“Any contract or agreement, express or implied, made by any employee to waive the benefits of this article or any part thereof, is null and void, and this article shall not deprive any employee or his personal representative of any right or remedy to which he is entitled under the laws of this State.”)
  • See IRS – Standard Mileage Rates. See also Travel Reimbursements , California Department of Human Services.
  • Gattuso v. Harte Hanks Shoppers, Inc. 42 Cal.4th 554 (2007) , (“The parties agree that one method an employer may use for automobile expense reimbursement is to calculate the automobile expenses that the employee actually and necessarily incurred and then to separately pay the employee that amount. This actual expense method is the most accurate, but it is also the most burdensome for both the employer and the employee. The actual expenses of using an employee’s personal automobile for business purposes include fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, registration, and depreciation.”)
  • Labor Code 2802 LC, see endnote 1 above. (“(b) All awards made by a court or by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for reimbursement of necessary expenditures under this section shall carry interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions. Interest shall accrue from the date on which the employee incurred the necessary expenditure or loss.”)
  • Labor Code 2802 LC, see endnote 1 above. (“(c) For purposes of this section, the term “necessary expenditures or losses” shall include all reasonable costs, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees incurred by the employee enforcing the rights granted by this section.”)
  • Labor Code 2802 LC, see endnote 1 above. (“(d) In addition to recovery of penalties under this section in a court action or proceedings pursuant to Section 98, the commissioner may issue a citation against an employer or other person acting on behalf of the employer who violates reimbursement obligations for an amount determined to be due to an employee under this section. The procedures for issuing, contesting, and enforcing judgments for citations or civil penalties issued by the commissioner shall be the same as those set forth in Section 1197.1. Amounts recovered pursuant to this section shall be paid to the affected employee.”
  • Labor Code 98.6 LC — Discharge or discrimination, retaliation, or adverse action against employee or applicant for conduct delineated in this chapter or because employee or applicant has filed complaint or claim, instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or relating to his or her rights or testified relating to the same on behalf of that person or another.

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Travel Time in California: A Must-Know Guide for Employers

travel pay california

Take control of California’s time, overtime, and break laws using Timeero.

Understanding travel time pay in California is essential for employers. It involves complex rules and regulations that affect how you compensate your employees, manage your operations, and protect your bottom line. Get it wrong, and you risk costly lawsuits and unhappy employees, not to mention inefficient practices that will eat into your profit.

So, let’s get it clear from the get-go: Is travel time paid in California?

A short answer is yes, but you should know that not all travel counts. 

To avoid the pitfalls of failing to comply with legal requirements, you should familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of travel time pay and mileage reimbursement in California.

Our guide is here to explain the concept of travel time pay, how it differs from regular pay, and what California state law stipulates. 

We’ll also provide some practical tips on calculating California travel time pay and mileage reimbursement accurately and fairly.

Overview of California Labor Laws Related to Travel Time

When enforcing travel time pay, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) pays a lot of attention to detail. 

The DLSE guidelines specify when you must compensate your employees for travel time, whether running a local errand or going on an out-of-state business trip. 

Remember that if you overlook these directives, you can risk your company financially and reputationally. Ignoring DLSE’s well-outlined norms can open you up to legal complications, including penalties that could negatively impact your bottom line. 

So, what are the rules you need to follow?

What Constitutes “Hours Worked” in California

In California employment law, “hours worked” is crucial in defining compensable time, including travel time. It includes:

  • Time actively spent performing work-related tasks , such as sending emails, making phone calls, or visiting clients.
  • The time when employees aren’t directly involved in work but remain under sufficient control of the employer , to the extent that the law considers it is working time. This usually means they’re not free to follow purely personal pursuits during that time.

Specific Rules Governing California Travel Time Pay

  • Using employer’s vehicle. The time spent traveling is compensable if an employee has to use the company vehicle for work purposes.
  • Carrying employer tools. If an employee transports tools or equipment for their employer, adding time and effort beyond the usual commute, that extra time must be paid.
  • Alternate worksite reporting. If an employer requires an employee to travel to a different job site on a short-term basis, which involves more than a minor distance, this travel time must be compensated.
  • Special circumstances. Activities like education and training time may also count as “working hours” under certain conditions.
  • Special rates. If an employer decides to pay a special rate for travel time, they must establish and inform employees about this rate in advance.
  • Advance notice and minimum wage. Employees must be informed of the travel rate in advance, and this rate cannot fall below the minimum wage.

When Does Travel Time Require Pay in California?

To better explain the issue, let’s discuss a couple of examples in which employees are entitled to travel time pay under California law: 

  • If your employees are making trips during work hours for business-related tasks — for instance, shuttling between different office locations or running errands for supplies, those hours are generally compensable.
  • You must reimburse the travel time when an employee travels out of town for a business event and returns the same workday. However, note that the usual commute time to the regular workplace and back to the employee’s home can be excluded from this calculation.
  • If employees are required to stay overnight for business purposes, the rules become more complex. Generally speaking, the time spent traveling during regular working hours is compensable. However, the same doesn’t apply to the time at the destination unless it’s spent working. 
  • If travel is a central part of the employee’s job (think sales representatives or delivery drivers), almost all the time spent traveling during work hours is compensable, including wait time at airports or other transit hubs.
  • Mandatory attendance at training sessions or conferences also requires compensation for travel time. If the event is outside of regular work hours, but attendance is compulsory, you must also reimburse your employees for travel time.

For example, if Sarah, a sales rep, has to drive from her regular work location to a client’s office in the middle of the day, that time is compensable. If she’s flying out for a multi-day conference, the time spent in transit could be considered work hours, depending on various factors. The rules around this scenario might differ and involve considerations such as meals and lodging.

Differentiating Between the Everyday Commute and Compensable Travel Time 

Understanding the fine line between commute time and work-related travel is critical to avoiding legal complications.

Your employees’ normal commute to and from the regular worksite is generally off your tab. In other words, you’re not required to reimburse your employees for the time they spend commuting between their homes and their regular worksites.     

However, certain situations turn the usual commute into compensable work time.

  • Employer-provided transportation. If an employee must come to a determined place and use the employer’s transportation to and from the worksite, that travel time is compensable under California law.
  • Restrictions on personal transportation. If employees aren’t allowed to use their own transportation and must use the employer’s, then the time is also considered work time that must be compensated.

The Morillion v. Royal Packing Co. case is crucial for understanding the travel time pay in California. The court held that the employees who had to travel on the employer-provided buses were entitled to compensation for their travel time since they were subject to the employer’s control and could not use that time for their own purposes. This case has important implications for defining what constitutes compensable work hours under the law.

Travel Time Pay and Mileage Reimbursement in California

If an employee’s job description requires using their personal vehicle for work-related activities, according to the California Labor Code Section 2802 , employers have to reimburse them. This is not just for fuel expenses but also includes factors like vehicle wear and tear.

Moreover, the right to mileage reimbursement is non-waivable. So, what does this mean for you? 

Simply put, even if your employment contract states that employees waive their rights to mileage reimbursement, this provision is void in a court of law.

Although many employers rely on the IRS standard mileage rate for calculating reimbursements, it’s important to note that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

If an employee can prove that their actual expenses have exceeded this rate, you must cover the difference.

The risks of not abiding by these rules are far from trivial. Failure to adequately reimburse employees can result in wage and hour lawsuits, a situation no employer wants to find themselves in. 

A reliable mileage tracking solution , such as Timeero, can help you accurately track and adequately reimburse your employees for business mileage.

Legal Must-Dos and Best Practices for California Employers

To that end, let’s explore legal must-dos and best practices that can serve as your guiding compass.

Advanced time and mileage tracking

To stay compliant with California labor laws , consider using one of the best employee GPS time and mileage tracking software designed with precision in mind. Such a tool won’t only automate what could be an error-prone manual process but also provide airtight records should any legal problems arise. Trust us, robust software is a worthwhile investment.

Up-to-date policies

Your employee handbook isn’t just a document; it’s your legal shield. Make sure it’s always updated with the latest company travel policy and mileage reimbursement policy . 

This will keep your team informed and serve as your first line of defense in case of disputes or inquiries.

Regular audits

You shouldn’t wait to find yourself in legal trouble to examine your processes. Regular audits can serve as a preventative measure, offering a clear insight into any discrepancies that could snowball into serious legal issues. Think of it as your business health check-up.

Expert consultation

Regulatory changes sometimes happen without much notice. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult legal experts who specialize in California labor law . Remember, preemptive legal advice is often much more affordable than dealing with potential litigation or lawsuits.

How Can Timeero Help Employers Stay Compliant With California Travel Time?

Compliance with California’s travel time regulations is easier than you think, thanks to Timeero. 

Our comprehensive software offers a range of features designed to keep you in line with 

California state laws effortlessly.

Time Tracking

timeero time clock

The crucial concept in California travel time pay is the concept of “hours worked.” Any compliance with the law must start there.

Timeero offers precise time-tracking functionalities that comply with California laws, capturing details of your employees’ work hours to ensure fair compensation.

All your employees need to do is download a mobile app on their phones and clock in when their workday begins. The app will keep track of all their work-related activities and automatically create time cards with the clock in and out time and the total number of hours worked. 

As the app tracks time during working hours only, the hours worked will also include employee travel time. 

Timeero software comes with an option to set a different hourly rate for the jobs you create, giving you flexibility around the travel time rate.

Mileage Tracking

But Timeero’s usability for compensating your workers’ travel expenses doesn’t end there. 

When employees use their own vehicles for work-related tasks, accurate mileage tracking is essential for reimbursement, in line with California Labor Code Section 2802. Timeero facilitates this with its powerful tracking features.

timeero mobile tracker

When it recognizes driving, the Timeero mobile app automatically starts tracking employees’ mileage and routes, capturing precise data for accurate reimbursement.

timeero suggested mileage

You can also use the app to replay employees’ routes and compare their actual routes with the shortest routes to their destinations.

Segmented Tracking

To provide a clearer view of how employee time is spent during work hours, Timeero offers segmented tracking capabilities. This visual timeline and data gathered can be especially useful in the context of California’s nuanced labor laws around travel time.

Segmented tracking will give you a quick overview of your employee’s travel time vs. time spent on site. If there are any potential issues when it comes to excessive travel time or mileage, you will be able to spot them right away.

California Overtime Settings

Timeero includes settings specifically designed for tracking California-specific overtime and double-time hours , helping you maintain compliance with state labor laws.

timeero overtime settings

You can choose the California Overtime Rules feature in the company settings, set the overtime rate, and have the exact payroll data ready when the next paycheck is due.

California Breaks

During their working hours, non-exempt employees in California are mandated to use their breaks. Not providing them with breaks leads to premium pay and potential legal and financial penalties.

Timeero includes a California Breaks Tracker feature that helps you ensure compliance with California meal and rest break laws , further reducing the risk of labor law violations.

timeero daily sign off form

With this feature, your California workers must complete the Daily Sign-off form before clocking out from their shifts. This way, they will verify whether they’ve used their breaks in a way that is compliant with California breaks law. Timeero will also automatically alert you if there is a compliance issue.

Disclaimer: California laws are complex, so this article serves informational purposes only. Consult your legal team for personalized advice.

FAQ: Travel Time in California

Is it a law in california that you must be paid for travel time.

Yes, it’s a legal requirement. Failure to comply with the California Labor Code and DLSE guidelines on travel time pay can result in legal actions, including penalties and back pay.

How Many Hours Per Day Is Travel Time in California?

There’s no hard and fast rule for a “per day” cap on travel time. However, what counts as compensable hours varies based on travel, whether a special one-day assignment or an overnight trip. An accurate time-tracking tool is your best friend here.

How Much is Travel Pay in California?

In California, the rate for travel time pay is typically calculated at the employee’s regular rate of pay. But, in some cases, both sides may agree to a different rate for travel time before the travel takes place. The rate must be at least the minimum wage.

With Timeero, mastering California’s time, overtime, and break laws is a breeze.

Need more information on this topic.

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Travel Pay Laws in California: What Employees Need to Know

Travel Pay Laws in California: What Employees Need to Know

Sometimes our employers require us to travel for work-related purposes. But what aspects of employee travel are California employers required to pay for? Travel pay in California can be a confusing area of law, but the following overview can help you navigate the ins and outs of travel pay laws in the California workplace.

Understanding Travel Pay Laws in California

As a general rule, California employees are paid for all of their time spent working, and this includes time that an employee spends traveling for work. If an employee is eligible for overtime compensation, and the employee’s travel time puts him or her over the standard forty-hour work week, then the employee should be paid overtime compensation accordingly. Yet all employees know that their commute to and from work is generally not considered time they spend working. So at what point does the time an employee spends behind the wheel, on a subway or train, or in a taxi for work become compensable travel time?

  • Compensable travel time must be considered hours worked.  If your employer controls you during the time you spend traveling, or you are permitted to work during travel time, then you should be compensated as these hours are considered hours worked.
  • If travel is made on an employer-selected route.  If you travel along an employer-selected route, then you are under your employer’s control and should be compensated for the travel time.
  • If travel is for the purpose of delivering work-related items.  If you are required to use your vehicle to deliver work-related items – such as tools to a worksite, or food to hungry customers at their homes – then the time traveled is considered hours worked and you should be paid for the travel time.
  • Time spent getting to job functions may be compensable.  If you spend time getting to a meeting or conference that is work-related, it is likely compensable travel time. Similarly, time spent getting to an alternative worksite from your home, or to an airport or train station for work-related travel is usually compensable travel time.
  • Reimbursement for work-related vehicle use.  Additionally, you should be reimbursed for wear and tear and mileage associated with work-related travel, under California Labor Code Section 2802.

Compensated travel time is important to employees who must travel for work. California employees must be notified of the travel rate in advance, and the travel rate cannot be less than minimum wage. Sometimes travel time is compensated at a different rate than normal hours worked, but employees who are eligible for compensated travel time should be paid accordingly under California law.

In conclusion, California employees who travel for work are often entitled to travel pay. If you believe that you should have received travel pay, but were not compensated by your employer, please consult with an experienced  California employment lawyer  regarding the matter. Get a free consultation today.

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  • Employment Law: When California Employers Must Pay for Travel
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Travel Time Pay Rules in California (2022):

Are you an hourly worker? Did you know that California law requires that hourly workers be paid for hours worked, which may include pay for travel? Pay for travel consists of time where an employee is not necessarily required to perform work but is still under an employer’s control. It is important to note that commuting to and from work is generally not time that an employer must compensate. Have you ever found yourself working off the clock? Contact your California employment lawyer for a confidential consultation.

For example, time spent as a passenger in a transportation-related entity is considered to be under the employer’s control if required by the employer.  Examples of such include, attending an event or meeting. On top of that, there are instances where travel-related cases such as waiting in traffic, purchasing a ticket, or getting on board, count as under the employer’s control.  However, there are cases where travel doesn’t count under the employer’s control.  These instances include; meals, relaxation breaks, and personal business.

In addition,  California law permits employers to pay different rates for travel time. Although the rate must not be less than minimum wage , it can be under what their normal pay rate is. It is important to note that, in order to qualify for a reduced travel time payment, the employer must have notified you of a different pay rate for travel time  before   you travel.

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Travel Time Compensation in California

Posted By: SV Employment Law Firm on March 3, 2016

Employee-Compensation

California law requires that employers pay employees for all hours worked. The term “hours worked,” however, is not all that simple to define or apply. The analysis is compounded when the hours worked are, for instance, part of the employee’s commute, consist of travel to a remote conference, or spent moving from client to client throughout the day. Once you conclude the time is “worked,” you must include those numbers in overtime calculations, and decide whether you want to pay travel at a different rate than the employee’s regular rate of pay.

What Constitutes Hours Worked For Purposes Of Compensation?

California Wage Orders (issued by the California Industrial Welfare Commission [the “IWC”]), define “hours worked” as “time during which an employee is subject to control of the employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to wor k, whether or not required to do so.” IWC Wage Order 4, Section 2K. Although the term “suffered or permitted” is included within the Order’s overall discussion of employer control, California courts have held that the tests for whether an employee was “controlled” or “suffered or permitted” to work can also be independent of each other. In other words, an employer is required to compensate for travel if the time falls into either or both categories. Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575, 583(2000).

An employee is “controlled” by the employer whenever the employer “directs, commands or restrains” an employee. Bono Enterprises, Inc. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal. App. 4th 968, 975 . “Suffered or permitted” to work refers to time worked where the employer knows the employee is working and does nothing to stop it, or when the employer possesses information from which such knowledge can be inferred, and that the employer “had reason to know” that the employee was performing work on its behalf.

Is Commute Time Ever Compensable?

Merriam-Webster defines the term “commute” as “to travel some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis.” ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/commute ). Whether commute time is compensable in part or whole depends on the mode and purpose of employer provided transportation, and whether use is mandated or voluntary. In other words, is the employer in control?

  • Regular Commute: An employer is not required to compensate an employee for the time it takes him to go from his residence to his regular work site.
  • Ridesharing: An employer is not required to compensate an employee for time spent in company provided transportation from a pick up point to the work site so long as participation is entirely voluntary. If, for instance, an employer provides a bus for workers that picks them up at a subway station and transports them to work but the employee could get there by using his own transportation; i.e., a car, bike, etc., the employer is not required to pay compensation.
  • Employer Control of Travel: An employer is required to compensate an employee for time spent riding in or driving a company vehicle from his home or a central stop to the work site if the employer requires employees to reach their worksite on company provided transportation. For instance, Walt Disney’s employee lot was a hike (over a mile) from the employee entrance to the Magic Kingdom. Disney prohibited employees from parking close to the park and provided a mandatory shuttle service from the employee parking lot.

When is Business Travel Compensable?

  • Off the Business Clock

Off-the-Clock work is work performed outside of regular business hours, or pre- or post-shift work may be compensable. For instance, in terms of travel time, certain tasks have been found to be compensable:

  • Mandatory Remote Conferences and Meetings
  • Taking the company controlled vehicle (bus, van, vehicle) where the employee cannot perform personal tasks (stopping to shop, dropping kids off at school, etc.)
  • Waiting for the company vehicle where the use of the vehicle is mandatory.
  • Commute time from residence to remote client or vendor locations that exceeds regular commute time (i.e., the delta between regular commute and additional time to reach remote site).
  • Mapping routes to customer locations.

If an employee is required to attend an offsite conference or meeting, the time spent traveling to and from the meeting is compensable. Additionally, time spent in reaching the point of departure (i.e., travel from home to the airport) which is over and above the time spent in the employee’s regular commute is compensable. Also note that the time spent in attending a mandatory conference or meeting is compensable at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

  • Travel Between Clients in a Single Workday

Once an employee reports to work, any work related travel occurring during the day is compensable.

Can Travel Pay Rates Be Lower than Regular Rate of Pay?

Yes, so long as all time is compensated at a rate equal to or higher than the minimum wage rate for California. Also, the employee must be informed of the lower rate in advance of the assigned travel. Be sure and check your location for its own minimum wage rate.

What About Overtime?

The employer must use a “weighted average” to obtain a regular rate of pay for overtime purposes. The California employer must pay 1-1/2 or 2 times the regular rate of pay for all time worked over 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. The regular rate is calculated as follows:

Regular Hours + Travel Hours in Workweek ——————————————————– Total Compensation for Workweek

Need more information? Want to check your calculations? Please contact us with questions at 650-265-0222 or [email protected] .

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  • 6 Things You Need to Know About Travel Time Pay in California

Your employer told you to drive to a store in Los Angeles to buy some donuts during normal work hours. Are you going to get paid for that trip, and why? Today, we brought our Los Angeles employment law attorney Jeffrey Rager to spell out what is travel time pay, when you are eligible to receive it, how it is calculated, and whether travel time always equals business time.

Travel Time Vs Commuting Time: What Is The Difference

But before we delve into the topic, let’s make sure that you understand the difference between commuting time and travel time. The former refers to an employee’s personal time spent to commute back and forth from work to home, while travel time is time spent traveling by an employee for work-related activities.

Under California employment laws, travel time should be paid, and can be either local trips or travel away from home.

Are You Eligible For Travel Time Pay

You are eligible to receive pay for local travel time only if you are a non-exempt employee (meaning: you are employed on an hourly basis). Exempt employees, who are paid based on their performance and expertise, are not entitled to travel time pay.

For non-exempt employees, travel time – as well as education and training time – are classified as “working hours,” which means their employers are legally required to pay them for it.

For example, let’s get back to the situation we have mentioned in the very beginning. If you are asked by your employer or supervisor to drive to a store to pick up some items during normal work hours, you should be paid for your travel time.

Time Spent Traveling Away From Home

An employer in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California is required to compensate his employees for any time spent traveling away from home. Let’s say, for example, that your employer directs you to attend a two-day event in New York City. Since you will have to spend time traveling from Los Angeles to New York City, your employer should pay travel time.

Our Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers explains that California employers are typically required to compensate their employee for spending any time that is under the employer’s control.

How To Calculate Travel Time Pay

Calculating travel time pay for salaried employees, who get paid bi-weekly or monthly, is not a problem, since they get paid regardless of the number of hours worked.

Hourly employees, meanwhile, should be paid on an hourly basis, which means travel time may not be as easy to calculate. It is highly advised to speak to an employment law attorney to find out whether or not travel time pay was calculated properly in your particular situation.

Is One-Day Or Overnight Stay Paid

If you have not been for a one-day or overnight stay, seek immediately legal advice of a lawyer. While hourly employees in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California are generally required to receive travel time pay in these situations, there are certain exceptions. That is why you should speak to an attorney to learn more.

Should Your Employer Compensate For Travel Expenses

Definitely. Travel time itself is not the only thing that an employer pays for. Travel expenses should be compensated by your employer, as employees can generally deduct unreimbursed travel expenses. In case you are traveling for both work-related activities and personal travel, you will have to keep separate checks for business-related expenses.

Calculating travel time pay and understanding employment laws is not the easiest task. That is why you are highly advised to get a free consultation from an experienced Los Angeles employment law attorney to determine whether or not your travel time pay is fair, or how to take legal action against an employer who does not pay for travel expenses.

Contact Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers for a free case evaluation. Call our Los Angeles offices at 310-527-6994 or fill out this contact form today.

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5 basic rules for understanding travel pay in california.

Updated: May 19, 2015

Understanding Travel Pay in California: When is Travel Time Compensable?

5 basic rules of travel pay.

  • “Commuting time from an employee’s regular place of work each day is not work time, so employers do not have to pay employees for this time.” Kwong explained.
  • “If an employee spend time traveling to a location for a special assignment, or spends substantial travel time for an emergency outside your normal work hours, that time that’s spent traveling during regular work hours is considered part of their principal job duties.” Travel in these circumstances or outside of normal work hours is compensable work time.
  • If an employee reports to a central location to pick up equipment before proceeding to his or her assigned worksite, the time spent traveling to the central location is not work time. The time spent traveling to the assigned worksite is work time.
  • Overnight travel or travel away from home is always work time under California law. Under federal law, it is work time only when it cuts across the employee’s normal workday and/or requires the employee to work on weekends or days when he or she would not otherwise be required to work.
  • Regular meal periods and time spent sleeping or in other leisure activities while traveling is not work time, and the employer does not have to pay the employee for this time.

19 thoughts on “5 Basic Rules for Understanding Travel Pay in California”

I did a job that was 100 miles away each way. 200 miles return a day. I provided transportation to my 3 employees in my truck so they could commute together( using carpool) and paid for the fuel for the entire week with them taking turns driving. This truck did not transport any equipment or tools needed and was only used for transportation for employees. We started work from 8 am to 3pm most days for another contractor. Am i required to pay them additional travel time and if so how much am i supposed to pay. This was a prevailing wage job from 8am to 4pm.

Best regards,

Shane pipeline contractor.

I have an employer which sends me to other cities in ca and only pays travel one way and unless an actual 8 hours on the job the travel time is at a lower rate and certainly no travel time to get back home, that is my personal time spending up to three hours of travel back from the job and do not get paid for. Don’t know if this employer is twisting things to meet his needs but the three hours in paid travel just doesn’t seem morally right

I recently ran in to an issue with an employer.

For this temp company, we are to report at 7:30am at a staging area where a bus will take us to the work site.

My understanding is well get paid at 9am till 4pm. Then have to wait for the company bus to transport us back to the staging area where we can then get our personal vehicles and leave.

My understanding is that if your required to report somewhere at a required time, then you are on the clock.

Am I correct or am I wrong? The 1 hour travel time in the company bus each way should be paid or un paid?

Hello, I am currently living in the Inland Empire. I work as a vacation sales relief rep for a food distributor out of Ontario, CA. I travel all over Southern CA for my employment. Holding this position is drive time pay acceptable or is there a rule of thumb as to how many miles driven before clicking in is allowed statewide?

Thanks, Kristopher

Question I work for a company in AZ they get job sites in CA. The employer wants to pay our commute 75 miles after we have been on the road. Is this the law or Is the employer trying to save money?

My employer has me driving anywhere from 95 miles to 130 miles one way to work on different sites my shortest commute has been an hour and a half one way to two and a half hours one way am I entitled by law to any compensation

Can an employer in california make you clock out so you can go get materials for the employer? She makes us clock out and use our own vehicle for parts or material runs

My employer has employees arrive at our home office in Chula Vista, often times gathering supplies for the work which will be done daily at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. The employees leave the home office in vans and travel to that job. This has gone on for a decade. When the job is 50 miles away my employer pays travel pay. My employer states that it is only 48 miles to the gate at Camp Pendleton. Well the job site is not at the gate, the work is being done 5 miles further inside the gate at the Navy’s LCAC site. Should these employees receive travel pay? I feel these employees are all being taken advantage of.

I’m being sent to work for a week an hour away. Does that hour of travel get counted as an hour of work? according to my supervisor its not, but my hour back is. It makes no sense.

I went to the PIHRA conference and my employer will reimburse me for mileage. Is the mileage calculated from my home to the conference or from my workplace to the conference?

I’m leaving for Malaysia in a week. my employers HR says that travel time does not equal out 1 to 1. 1 hour traveld to one hour worked. I am an hourley employee. and i will be traveling 42 hours 19.30 to get there and 23.20 on the return flight. do i get compensated for that time 1 to 1

I hope somebody can explain this to me this is the law in California I get assigned to show up at a different locations every day and end the day at a different location job sites every day. My company policy Significant Additional Commuting Time ( Travel Time )

For functions or activities requiring commuting time of more than 30 minutes, work time should be started after 30 minutes.

• As an example, if an employee leaving home first thing in the morning proceeds directly to a designated location on the other side of the city which will require a one hour drive, the first 30 minutes is non-paid commute time and the second 30 minutes is paid time. • In this example, if the same employee leaves the job site one hour from his home, the first 30 minutes is paid travel time. The last 30 minutes to their home is considered non-paid commute time. • If the commute time is not in excess of 30 minutes, no additional time should be added to work hours.

• Although not required by most state or local laws, “Significant Additional Commuting Time” will be recorded as “working time.” It will therefore be counted towards daily or weekly thresholds requiring overtime pay (i.e., the hours are counted towards an employee’s 40 hours of working time in a week or 8 hours of working time in a day).

I had traveled to China and Israel for the last few months, and each time I travel for work I am told I can only claim 6 hours a day for International travel. Is this company keeping within State and Federal laws.

I am working as a contractor. My primary work location is MY OWN HOME. However, my firm sent to me to work on-site at a client’s offices for three weeks, which is an 85-mile drive in EACH direction in L.A. traffic. Needless to say, a daily commute was not possible, so I ended up booking an inexpensive motel room for each night of my three-week stay. I am also spending a small fortune in meals (away from home) and mileage for my car. I asked my firm to cover my travel expenses, but they declined, saying they were not obligated to do so (I live in California). So, I had to cover all of my own costs, which left VERY LITTLE in net pay for this project. In all my years of doing this, I have never known any company to refuse to pay an employee’s work-related travel expenses. What are my options here? Is my company required to cover my travel costs? Help!

I have an employer that on any given day I could work 10-12 hours including travel time but the travel time is not being applied to daily OT, so end of week I could work 50 hours and have no overtime. Is this correct

Hi Durrell, did you ever get an answer to this? If so, would you please share it with me as I have the same question.

I work as a merchandiser. I get paid once I arrive at the first store. One windy day I was traveling from one store to another and my car was hit by a big piece of wood (wind caught it from a truck) I asked my company about paying for the damages since I was on company time. Or at least pay my deductible. They have been avoiding my emails. Any help on this?

I have an hourly employee getting ready to take a business trip in the company vehicle to another location for one week. Does his hourly rate change?

Can an employer require you to stay at a coworkers home during a business trip instead of paying for a hotel room?

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In California, what rules apply when determining what constitutes hours worked?

California wage-and-hour law clearly states that any hour an employee spends performing work on behalf of the organization, or work that the organization knew or had reason to know was being performed by the employee, is considered hours worked and therefore deemed compensable time, regardless of where the work was performed (with some limitations).

The Labor Commissioner has adopted the federal regulations permitting the practice of computing working time by rounding to the nearest five minutes, or one-tenth or one-quarter of an hour. Such rounding is acceptable as long as it is applied both ways (for both employee and organization) so as not to result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate employees properly for all time they have actually worked.

Key considerations regarding compensable hours are outlined below.

Reporting-Time Pay

California Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Orders require that employers pay nonexempt employees for certain unworked but regularly scheduled time, in addition to the hours the employee actually works. See, IWC Orders 1-16, Section 5. Such payments are known as reporting-time pay. The following are specific requirements for reporting-time pay:

Each workday an employee is required to report to work but is not put to work or is furnished with less than half of his or her usual or scheduled day’s work, the employee must be paid for half the usual or scheduled day’s work, but in no event for less than two hours or more than four hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

If an employee is required to report to work a second time in any one workday and is furnished less than two hours of work on the second reporting, he or she must be paid for two hours at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Exceptions to the requirement for reporting-time pay, found in IWC Orders 1-16, apply to the following situations:

When operations cannot begin or continue due to threats to employees or property, or when civil authorities recommend that work not begin or continue.

When public utilities fail to supply electricity, water or gas, or there is a failure in the public utilities or sewer system.

When the interruption of work is caused by an Act of God or other cause not within the employer’s control—for example, an earthquake.

The reporting-time pay provisions do not apply to employees on paid standby status or when an employee has a regularly scheduled shift of less than two hours, such as a relief cashier who works only during a one-hour period in the middle of the day.

Reporting-time pay for hours in excess of the actual hours worked is not counted as hours worked for purposes of determining overtime.

Call-back, On-call and Standby Time

An organization does not automatically have to pay a nonexempt employee for carrying a beeper, cell phone or other mobile device. Whether the on-call time is compensable will depend on the degree to which the employee is under the organization’s control. Factors to be considered include the degree of the restriction on the employee’s freedom, whether the employee is required to be on the organization’s property, and the impact the on-call policy has on the employee’s ability to perform personal business. On-call time may be paid at a different rate than the employee would receive for working.

Whether on-call or standby time off the work site is considered compensable must be determined by looking at the restrictions placed on the employee. A variety of factors are considered in determining whether the employer-imposed restrictions turn the on-call time into compensable hours worked. Some of the factors to consider include:

Whether a fixed time limit for response is unduly restrictive.

Whether the on-call employee can easily trade his or her on-call responsibilities with another employee.

To what extent the employee engages in personal activities during on-call periods.

During times when the employees are subject to the employer’s control, on-call or standby time at the work site is considered hours worked, and employees must be compensated for this time even if they do nothing.

Travel Time

Whether an employer needs to pay a nonexempt employee for travel time depends on many factors. Commuting—traveling from home to the usual work site—is not considered paid travel time. If the organization provides the employee with a company vehicle, the travel time to the employee’s usual work site is not paid time, even if the employee is performing small tasks such as refueling the vehicle. An employer does need to have an agreement with the employee regarding the use of the vehicle.

Most other travel time is considered work time, including travel to a different work site on a temporary basis or travel when an organization does not allow an employee to use his or her own transportation. In California, travel time is considered compensable work hours when the employer requires its employees to meet at a designated place, use the employer’s transportation to and from the work site, and prohibits employees from using their own transportation.

Generally, travel time longer than the employee’s normal commute to and from his or her regular work site is considered compensable. Employees who are required to report to a temporary work site or who experience a change in work site location must be compensated for any travel time in excess of the time normally required to report to their regular work site.

Time spent driving or as a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi cab or car, or other mode of transportation in traveling to and from an out-of-town business-related trip and time spent waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage or get on board is considered time spent under the employer’s control and therefore is compensable as hours worked.

Nonexempt employees may be paid for their travel time at a pay rate lower than the usual rate of pay. This rate may be as low as the minimum wage. The rate at which the travel must be paid depends upon the nature of the compensation agreement. If the employer has agreed to pay a fixed hourly rate of pay for any work performed, then travel time must be paid at that regular hourly rate or, if applicable, the required overtime rate. An employer may establish a separate rate of pay for travel before the work is performed for hourly employees, provided the rate does not fall below the statutory minimum wage.

De Minimis Time

The California Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that employers must pay workers for routine off-the-clock activities, such as setting the alarm and closing the store at the end of the day—even if the amount of time is minimal. Employers in California may no longer rely upon the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) de minimis rule which states that infrequent and insignificant periods of time beyond the scheduled working hours, which cannot as a practical matter be precisely recorded for payroll purposes, may be disregarded. 

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Travel Time

Time spent traveling during normal work hours is considered compensable work time. Time spent in home-to-work travel by an employee in an employer-provided vehicle, or in activities performed by an employee that are incidental to the use of the vehicle for commuting, generally is not "hours worked" and, therefore, does not have to be paid. This provision applies only if the travel is within the normal commuting area for the employer's business and the use of the vehicle is subject to an agreement between the employer and the employee or the employee's representative.

Webpages on this Topic

Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act - Answers many questions about the FLSA and gives information about certain occupations that are exempt from the Act.

Coverage Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Fact Sheet - General information about who is covered by the FLSA.

Wage and Hour Division: District Office Locations - Addresses and phone numbers for Department of Labor district Wage and Hour Division offices.

State Labor Offices/State Laws - Links to state departments of labor contacts. Individual states' laws and regulations may vary greatly. Please consult your state department of labor for this information.

Understanding Employer Obligations For Traveling Employees: Are Meals Covered In California?

  • Last updated May 14, 2024
  • Difficulty Beginner

Majid Rana

  • Category Travel

do employers have to pay for meals while traveling california

When it comes to understanding employer obligations for traveling employees, one key question that often arises is whether meals are covered in California. This is an important issue because it directly affects employees' ability to receive adequate compensation for their work-related travel expenses. In California, there are specific rules and regulations in place that dictate whether employers are required to provide meal reimbursements or if employees are responsible for covering their own food costs. By delving into this topic, we can gain a better understanding of the legal landscape surrounding employee travel and employer obligations in the state of California.

What You'll Learn

California labor laws: employers' obligations regarding employee meals.

  • Traveling Employees: Are Employers Required to Cover Meal Expenses

California Travel Expense Reimbursement: Understanding Employers' Responsibilities

Legal considerations: employers' liability for providing meals to traveling employees.

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California Labor Laws: Employers Obligations Regarding Employee Meals

In California, employers are subject to specific labor laws that outline their obligations when it comes to providing meals for their employees. These laws ensure that workers are adequately compensated for their time, including when they are required to travel for work purposes. Here's what employers need to know about providing meals to their employees while traveling in California.

Under California Labor Code Section 2802, employers are required to reimburse employees for all necessary expenses incurred in the course of their employment. This includes expenses related to meals and travel. However, there is no specific requirement for employers to provide free meals to employees who are traveling for work.

Employers have two options when it comes to providing employee meals while traveling. They can either provide free meals or reimburse employees for their meal expenses. If employers choose to provide free meals, they must meet certain criteria to ensure compliance with labor laws.

Firstly, the meals must be reasonably necessary for the employee to perform their job duties. This means that the meals must be provided during working hours, and the employee must not have a reasonable opportunity to secure a meal on their own.

Secondly, employers must provide meals that are of a reasonable nature and quality. This means that the meals should be suitable and sufficient considering the employee's work responsibilities and the circumstances of their travel.

Lastly, employers must document the provision of meals and retain records for a reasonable period of time. This documentation should include details such as the date, time, location, and reason for the meal provided.

If employers choose to reimburse employees for their meal expenses while traveling, they must also follow certain guidelines to ensure compliance with labor laws.

Firstly, the reimbursement must cover actual and necessary expenses incurred by the employee. This includes the cost of meals as well as any applicable taxes and tips.

Secondly, the reimbursement must be made in a reasonable amount of time. Employers should establish a clear policy for submitting expense reports and reimburse employees in a timely manner.

Lastly, employers must require employees to submit detailed and accurate receipts for their meal expenses. These receipts should include the date, location, and cost of the meals.

It's important for employers to understand that failing to properly reimburse employees for their meal expenses while traveling can result in legal consequences. Employees have the right to file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner if they believe their employer has violated their rights regarding meal reimbursement.

In conclusion, employers in California are obligated to either provide free meals or reimburse employees for their meal expenses while traveling for work. To ensure compliance with labor laws, employers must meet certain criteria and maintain proper documentation. By understanding and fulfilling these obligations, employers can protect themselves from potential legal issues.

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Traveling Employees: Are Employers Required to Cover Meal Expenses?

When employees are required to travel for work, whether it be for a business meeting, conference, or other work-related activities, the question of who pays for their meals often arises. In the state of California, the legal obligations of employers regarding meal expenses for traveling employees can be somewhat complex. It is essential for both employers and employees to understand their rights and responsibilities in these situations.

Under California labor laws, employers are generally not required to reimburse employees for meal expenses incurred during work-related travel. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. The key factor is whether the employee's travel time is considered "hours worked" under the California Labor Code.

If an employee's travel time is considered "hours worked," then the employer is required to pay for the employee's meals during that time. "Hours worked" generally includes time spent traveling during regular working hours, as well as any time spent traveling outside regular working hours if it falls within the employee's regular work schedule. In such cases, employers must reimburse employees for reasonable meal expenses.

On the other hand, if an employee's travel time is not considered "hours worked," then the employer is not obligated to reimburse the employee for meal expenses. This typically applies to time spent commuting to and from the employee's regular place of work. However, if the employee is required to travel during regular working hours for any reason, the time spent traveling would likely be considered "hours worked," and the employer would be responsible for covering meal expenses during that time.

It is important to note that even if an employee is entitled to meal reimbursement, there are certain requirements and limits imposed by California labor laws. Employers are not required to reimburse employees for extravagant or unreasonable meal expenses. Instead, they are only obligated to reimburse employees for reasonable and necessary meal expenses.

To ensure compliance with California labor laws and avoid any potential disputes, it is advisable for employers to establish clear policies and guidelines regarding meal reimbursement for traveling employees. These policies should outline the circumstances under which employees are entitled to meal reimbursement and any limitations or restrictions on such reimbursement.

In conclusion, while employers in California are generally not required to reimburse employees for meal expenses incurred during work-related travel, there are exceptions to this rule. If an employee's travel time is considered "hours worked," the employer must reimburse reasonable meal expenses. Employers should establish clear policies and guidelines to ensure compliance with California labor laws and avoid any potential disputes.

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California Travel Expense Reimbursement: Understanding Employers Responsibilities

When employees are required to travel for work in California, it is important for employers to understand their responsibilities regarding travel expense reimbursement. In addition to lodging and transportation, employers may also have to pay for meals while their employees are traveling. This article will provide an overview of the requirements and guidelines for meal reimbursement in California.

Under California Labor Code Section 2802, employers are generally required to indemnify employees for all expenses necessarily incurred in the discharge of their duties. This includes expenses for meals when an employee is traveling for work. However, there are certain conditions and limitations that employers should be aware of.

Firstly, employers are only obligated to pay for meals that are reasonably necessary for the employee's job duties while traveling. This means that the employee must provide accurate and detailed documentation of the expenses, including receipts. It is also important for employees to adhere to any company policies or guidelines regarding meal expenses, such as a maximum per diem amount or restrictions on certain types of meals.

Secondly, employers are not required to reimburse employees for extravagant or excessive meal expenses. The reimbursement should be reasonable and in line with what a typical employee would spend on a meal while traveling for work. Employers may set limits on the amount they are willing to reimburse for meals, as long as the limits are reasonable.

Additionally, employers may choose to provide the meals directly to employees instead of reimbursing them for meal expenses. For example, if an employer organizes a work event that includes meals, they may choose to cover the cost of those meals directly instead of reimbursing employees afterwards. However, if an employer provides meals directly, they must still ensure that the meals are reasonably necessary for the employee's job duties and meet any applicable guidelines or limitations.

It is also important to note that meal reimbursement is typically separate from the reimbursement of lodging and transportation expenses. While employers are generally required to reimburse employees for these expenses as well, they may have different guidelines or limitations in place for each category of expenses.

In summary, employers in California are generally required to reimburse employees for meal expenses while traveling for work, as long as the expenses are reasonably necessary and documented. Employers may set guidelines or limitations on the amount they are willing to reimburse, as long as they are reasonable. It is important for employers and employees to communicate and understand these guidelines to ensure compliance with California labor laws.

Where Can Traveler's Checks be Counted and Exchanged?

Legal Considerations: Employers Liability for Providing Meals to Traveling Employees

When it comes to traveling employees, employers have certain obligations to provide for their needs, including meals. However, it's important for both employers and employees to understand the legal considerations and requirements surrounding this issue, particularly in the state of California.

Under California law, employers are generally not required to provide meal breaks or pay for meals for employees. However, when employees are required to be away from their usual work location for travel, different rules may apply. Let's take a closer look at the legal considerations regarding meal provisions for traveling employees in California.

Travel Time and Expenses

Firstly, it's important to determine whether an employee is entitled to be reimbursed for meal expenses while traveling. In California, employers must compensate employees for all hours worked, including any time spent traveling.

If an employee is required to travel during their regular work hours, they must be paid for that time. Similarly, if an employee travels outside of their regular work hours, but is still performing work-related tasks, they should be compensated for their time.

However, just because an employee is entitled to be reimbursed for travel time does not necessarily mean that the employer must also pay for their meals. The distinction lies in whether the employee is considered to be on a per diem basis or subject to actual expense reimbursement.

Per Diem vs. Actual Expense Reimbursement

Per diem is a fixed amount of money paid to employees as a daily allowance for meal expenses while away from home. The purpose of per diem is to simplify the reimbursement process and provide a reasonable amount for meals without requiring employees to keep detailed receipts.

In California, employers may choose to pay a per diem to their traveling employees for meals, which will be considered an expense reimbursement and not wages. However, the per diem amount must be reasonable and meet the state and federal guidelines.

Alternatively, employers may choose to reimburse employees for their actual meal expenses by requiring them to submit detailed receipts. In this scenario, the employer must reimburse the employee for the reasonable and necessary costs of their meals.

Labor Code 2802 and Expense Reimbursement

Under California Labor Code Section 2802, employers have a legal obligation to reimburse their employees for any expenses incurred in the course of their employment. This includes expenses such as travel, meals, lodging, and other reasonable costs.

If an employer requires an employee to travel for work, they must reimburse the employee for their meal expenses, whether through a per diem or actual expense reimbursement. Failure to do so may expose the employer to liability and potential legal consequences.

While employers in California are generally not required to provide meal breaks or pay for meals, the situation changes when employees are required to travel for work. In such cases, employers must compensate employees for their travel time and may be obligated to provide meal reimbursements.

To ensure compliance with the law and protect both employers and employees, it is advisable to have clear policies in place regarding meal provisions for traveling employees. By understanding the legal considerations surrounding this issue, employers can fulfill their obligations and maintain positive working relationships with their traveling staff.

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Frequently asked questions.

In California, employers are not required by law to pay for employee meals while traveling for work. However, they can choose to provide meal reimbursements or a daily meal allowance.

No, employers in California cannot deduct meal costs from employee wages, even if the employee agrees to it. Meal costs should be covered by the employer separately, either through reimbursements or a daily meal allowance.

Certain exceptions may apply in California if the employee is involved in specific industries, such as the entertainment industry, where collective bargaining agreements or other industry standards may require employers to pay for meals during travel. It is important to consult the applicable industry regulations and agreements in such cases.

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Q: Would I receive travel time pay in california if I drive to different locations each day Rather than the home office

Home office is 33 miles from home location I travel to could be up to 50 miles from home. I drive a company vehicle that is only for company business. No personal usage of vehicle

James L. Arrasmith

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A: In California, travel time pay is governed by the California Labor Code and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders. Generally, if an employee is required to travel to different work locations during the workday, the time spent traveling between those locations is considered compensable hours worked. However, the time spent commuting from home to the first work location of the day and from the last work location back home is generally not compensable, as it is considered normal commute time. In your case, since you are driving a company vehicle that is only used for company business, the travel time between work locations during the workday would likely be considered compensable hours worked. The commute from your home to the first work location and from the last work location back home would not be compensable. It's important to note that California law may have additional nuances and exceptions based on specific circumstances. If you have further questions or concerns, it's best to consult with an experienced employment law attorney or contact the California Labor Commissioner's Office for more information.

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California is offering drivers $400 gift cards to test its alternative to the gas tax

A Tesla car charges up at a Tesla Supercharger on May 2 in Petaluma.

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California officials are still trying to figure out how to pay for road repairs and maintenance in the not-so-distant future, when electric vehicles dominate the roadways and gas tax revenue dries up.

So they’re offering drivers up to $400 to test a couple of alternatives for six months, starting in August. The pilot program is open to drivers of all vehicle types, gasoline-powered or otherwise.

Road improvements are financed mainly through the state’s comparatively high excise tax on fuels (about 58 cents a gallon for gasoline and 44 cents a gallon for diesel). Approximately 80% of highway and road repairs are funded by the state gas tax, according to the California Department of Transportation.

But that important revenue stream is expected to nosedive in the coming years as the transition to more electric and hybrid vehicles quickens, especially with a ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles set to take effect in 2035.

So state transportation officials are looking for drivers to participate in what will likely be the final test on a new system aimed at replacing the gas tax with a more reliable funding source based on the number of miles you drive, not how many gallons your car guzzles.

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“What’s happening right now as we see this growth in different types of vehicles ... we’re seeing this increasing unfairness in what people are paying,” said Lauren Prehoda, manager of CalTrans’ Road Charge Program . While owners of electric vehicles pay a yearly fee to help pay for road repairs, it’s about a third of the roughly $300 that Californians pay on average through the gas tax, according to the program.

Prehoda said the latest pilot program — the fourth focused on this issue — will test two payment models: a flat per-mile rate or an individualized rate based on a vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

“This time it’s unique because in the past we haven’t actually collected money,” Prehoda said. She said they are focused on testing the collection process, but will be looking to ensure the process is easy for drivers, reliable for the state and equitable for all Californians.

Prehoda expects this will be the final test of the process before policymakers determine how it will be implemented.

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“As a state we’ve been looking at this for 10 years now,” she said. The first pilot program kicked off in 2016 , when transportation officials tested the feasibility of such a new revenue stream, looking into a variety of ways for drivers to report mileage. Officials have since looked at how such a new tax could disproportionately affect rural and tribal communities and how private and public roads are used.

The latest study is looking for about 800 participants statewide who will begin paying the mileage-based travel fee every month, but also receive a credit for the gas taxes or EV registration fees they paid to ensure they aren’t double-taxed. Participants can also earn up to $400 in gift cards. Interested Californians can sign up online .

“This is your opportunity to figure this out together with us; to solve an issue that the state of California has,” Prehoda said, adding that the failure to maintain roads causes costly wear and tear on the vehicles using them. “We all need good roads to get around.”

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travel pay california

Grace Toohey is a reporter at the Los Angeles Times covering breaking news for the Fast Break Desk. Before joining the newsroom in 2022, she covered criminal justice issues at the Orlando Sentinel and the Advocate in Baton Rouge. Toohey is a Maryland native and proud Terp.

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Caltrans pilot program tests replacing gas tax with charging per mile driven

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LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- California roads are maintained through gas tax revenue, but that's dwindling with the increase in the number of electric vehicles.

A new pilot program aims to charge drivers for using the roads based on how much they actually drive - removing California's gas tax and replace it with a mileage tax instead.

Caltrans spokesperson Lauren Prehoda said maintaining roadways costs around between $8 billion to $9 billion a year with the vast majority of the funds coming from California's gas taxes, which are collected every time a driver fills their gas tank.

According to Caltrans, California now has more than 1.2 million hybrid or electric vehicles registered in the state, which means gas tax revenues are falling.

"On average, Californians pay about $300 a year in state gas taxes," Prehoda said. "EVs have a $100 (annual) registration fee... that's a $200 million a year loss."

To bridge that gap, Caltrans is proposing what it calls the California Road Charge, which would tax drivers on the number of miles they drive.

Mileage could be tracked by plugging an electronic device into a vehicle, using a vehicle's built-in tracking system or by simply submitting photos of the vehicle's odometer, according to Caltrans

"Everyone has different levels of comfort when we're managing our data between efficiency and privacy, and that's why it's really important to have options from low tech to high tech," Prehoda said.

Caltrans will start a six-month pilot program in June, designed to test the Road Charge program. Volunteers can sign up to have their miles tracked, fill out some surveys and earn up to $400 for taking part.

It's up to the state Legislature to decide if the Road Charge should actually replace the gas tax.

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Over $450,000 in back pay, damages awarded to workers at Half Moon Bay farms where mass shootings took place

M ay 21—HALF MOON BAY — The owners of two San Mateo County mushroom farms where a man allegedly killed seven coworkers in back-to-back shootings last year will pay over $450,000 in back wages and damages to dozens of employees, according to federal authorities.

The settlements follow an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor that found Concord Farms Inc. and California Terra Garden Inc. violated both the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The federal agency's Wage and Hour Division launched the probe in the wake of the January 2023 shootings. A man who lived on one of the farms, 67-year-old Chunli Zhao, is accused of killing fellow employees and is now facing seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.

At California Terra Garden, investigators found 39 workers housed in cramped containers, garages and dilapidated trailers, the Labor Department said in a news release. The employees were forced to sleep on dirty mattresses and exposed to insects and garbage.

The federal agency said the married couple who owned the farm — identified as Xianmin Guan and Liming Zhu — also deducted money from workers' pay for the substandard housing illegally.

Employees at Concord Farms, located just two miles away, were found housed in moldy, makeshift rooms in a greenhouse crawling with insects, according to the Labor Department.

The owner of the farm — identified as Grace Tung — shortchanged workers who received the regular rate of pay for all hours worked, including hours over 40 in a workweek, and who were also not paid for work off the clock, the federal agency said.

"Our investigators found workers at California Terra Garden and Concord Farms housed in sickening conditions, forced to sleep near garbage and with insects all around," Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Alberto Raymond said in the release.

"The Department of Labor is determined to hold employers accountable when they ignore their legal responsibilities to provide suitable housing when required and pay workers all their legally earned wages for the hard work they do in difficult conditions," Raymond continued. "We are committed to enforcing these workplace protections that ensure a safe and suitable living conditions for seasonal workers."

The settlement with Union City-based Concord Farms calls for it to pay a total of $370,107 in overtime wages and liquidated damages to 10 workers, $4,242 in late wages to 23 workers and $29,049 in civil money penalties to address its violations.

California Terra Garden, meanwhile, will pay $84,074 to allow 39 workers to recoup the employers' illegal housing deductions and $42,494 in civil money penalties to resolve its housing, wage disclosure and recordkeeping violations.

Check back for updates.

(c)2024 Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

NBC Los Angeles

California wants to pay you $400 for ‘Road Charge' program

It's part of a statewide pilot program to test out a new funding scheme for road repairs and maintenance as fewer californians pay the gasoline tax at the pump., by helen jeong and jonathan gonzalez • published may 15, 2024 • updated on may 16, 2024 at 3:56 pm.

As California gets closer to 2035, when selling gas-powered cars would be banned, state officials are now faced with a dilemma : how to fund road maintenance and other transportation projects.

As the gasoline tax that drivers with gas-powered cars pay at the pump makes up nearly 80% of freeway and road repairs, fewer Californians are using gas cars, and state funding that is fueled by the gas tax is dwindling.

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California is considering Road Charge, an alternative funding system that would replace the gas tax, which funds most road repair maintenance projects, and charge all drivers, including those with electric vehicles who do not pay the gas tax at the pump.

With more EVs than gas-powered cars likely being on the road, the state is planning for the future.

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“We’re trying to plan ahead and study for some potential replacement to the gas tax,” Lauren Prehoda, a Caltrans Road Charge Program manager, said.

To test out future ways to tax drivers more evenly, a financial incentive will be offered for 800 car owners who will take part in the Road Charge pilot program

“For the first time, we will be collecting revenue from participants,” Prehoda said. “They will be paying a bill every month for six months.”

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Here’s how california road charge works.

Just like Californians pay their gas or electric bills based on their usage, a road charge program will issue a fee to each driver based on how many miles driven per month.

  • Participants can sign up here between May and June by filling out a questionnaire here. 
  • Once 800 participants are selected throughout the state, they will have to enroll through the link provided by the state. 
  • After participants drive as they normally do from August 2024 to January 2025, they will pay monthly Road Charge payments online.
  • Once all required activities, including surveys, throughout the pilot are complete, drivers can earn up to $400 with the first $100 being distributed in September 2024 and the rest in February 2025.

One tax after another?

While the state argues EV owners still pay far less than gas car owners for car maintenance and energy costs, some EV drivers remain skeptical about the idea.

“One tax after another, it’s just never going to end,” Howard Alonzo, an electric car owner, said. :

But Prehoda said the decision to launch the pilot program, before potentially applying the new rules to all Californians, was based on research and focus group polling. 

“I think there's a lot of recognition amongst those drivers that we do need to pay our fair share for road maintenance,”Prehoda said.

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    Biggest Nursing Pay Gap in the Upper Midwest. The Midwest enjoys higher ratios of nurses per capita than other areas in the U.S., which should translate to less demand for travel nurses overall. That said, nurses who take travel contracts in the Midwest, on average, earn the highest per-hour wage difference compared to their on-staff counterparts.

  28. California Road Charge proposal would have motorists pay by miles

    According to Caltrans, California now has more than 1.2 million hybrid or electric vehicles registered in the state, which means gas tax revenues are falling. "On average, Californians pay about ...

  29. Over $450,000 in back pay, damages awarded to workers at Half ...

    California Terra Garden, meanwhile, will pay $84,074 to allow 39 workers to recoup the employers' illegal housing deductions and $42,494 in civil money penalties to resolve its housing, wage ...

  30. California wants to pay you $400 for 'Road Charge' program

    After participants drive as they normally do from August 2024 to January 2025, they will pay monthly Road Charge payments online. Once all required activities, including surveys, throughout the ...