Do they have to pay me while I am at the conference?

My question concerns an HR problem: I was required to travel from Newton to a work conference, 250 miles away. The conference did not start until the following day. The supervisor needed to be there a day early. The offer was made three times, for separate, independent travel, but it was not considered a good option by the supervisor. The question is: what is the legal compensation due for: 1) that first day of travel & waiting; 2) for the following 2 days of conference; and 3) for the drive to return to Newton. Thanks, in advance, for your comments. …an hourly employee.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) primarily governs the issue. The FLSA is federal legislation that deals with when compensation is due to hourly employees. Your question actually touches on a number of facets of the FLSA.

Other laws that deal with aspects of these subjects may also apply.

Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities does not have to be counted as time worked if: 1) attendance is outside the employee’s normal working hours, 2) attendance is voluntary, 3) the event is not directly related to the employee’s job, and 4) the employee does not perform productive work while in attendance.

Although in some circumstances all four criteria must be satisfied for an employer to avoid paying wages, in other situations only some of the criteria need be satisfied. Situations exist where a training, for example, may be directly related to an employee’s job and required by the employer, yet no compensation is due. An example may be where a paramedic requires state-mandated training to maintain certification.

Also, no bright lines exist to define whether a work conference is forced or voluntary and this can actually be quite blurred.

An extensive breadth of case law attempts to interpret and derive the applicability of these criteria. Certainly, court holdings are not uniform in this area nationwide.

Accordingly, although the above factors may seem straightforward, they are actually very complex to apply in reality.

All things being equal, it is generally possible that you may be allowed compensation for your driving time and the time spent actually at the conference. The mode of travel, however, may also be a factor that impacts this question.

In between those times, if you were free to do whatever you wanted, no compensation is probably due. This answer is qualified by a host of other considerations beyond the scope of this article.

This is an area of law that is quite esoteric and thus some lawyers have focused their entire practice on navigating these rules. A much more detailed discussion of all the circumstances of your situation in light of the FLSA would be necessary. Thus, admittedly I can only offer general speculation as to the rules that may apply.

To thoroughly diagnose your situation you have the option of visiting with an attorney well versed in employment law. I wish you the best of luck in resolving this matter. Hopefully, the conference was at an exciting location or at least you experienced cooler weather than Kansas!