What Rights Do Traveling Employees Have?

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Like any other worker, traveling employees are entitled to payment for the time they devote to work, whether they’re traveling for business or simply on call. Making sure all legal requirements are met and potential problems are avoided is key to both regulatory compliance and sound HR management.

Payment for Travel Time

Traveling employees are entitled to payment for time they spend traveling for work, though specific restrictions do apply. The rules vary depending on whether it’s a one-day trip or an overnight trip.

One-day trips

On one-day business trips, employees must be paid for the time they spend traveling. However, if they normally commute for work, then they might not need to be paid for time traveling to the airport.

Overnight travel

Overnight travel works a little differently from same-day travel in that employees may not necessarily be compensated for all their travel time. In this area, travel is typically considered to be compensable if it occurs during the employee’s normal work hours, even if those hours occur on days when they may not normally work.

For instance, if an employee usually works from nine to five during the week but travels for work on Saturday, the time spent traveling may need to be paid if it occurs between those hours.

Workers’ Compensation

Employees who travel are covered by workers’ compensation, even if they are injured outside of the state. Illinois workers’ compensation law covers anyone who is employed by an Illinois business, even if they work outside of the state. As such, if an employee gets injured or seriously sick while traveling for work, they’d be entitled to benefits.

Facing Restrictions on Travel

With the recent pandemic, there are many restrictions on travel as well as concerns about health and safety. While many places are starting to open up again, it’s still worthwhile to consider situations in which employees may not be able—or willing—to travel.

Limitations on employers

Employers cannot restrict their employees from personal travel to areas that may be at risk. However, they may be able to enforce a 14-day quarantine of the employee from work wherever there is a risk that the employee has been exposed to infectious disease.

Asking employees about their travel history is appropriate only if all employees are asked the same questions. Questioning should not be targeted at people of specific ethnicities or groups.

Keeping employees safe

Employers can take measures to protect their employees, such as educating them on safe traveling practices. However, employers cannot prohibit employees from traveling altogether. In addition, it is inadvisable to force employees to travel to places they deem dangerous. Doing so can diminish employee morale and lead to potential legal problems down the road.

Keeping Within Legal Limits

Ultimately, it is within employers’ best interests to treat their traveling employees well. Doing so not only helps ensure regulatory compliance, but it can also make it less likely that employees will pursue legal charges in the future.

Outside legal counsel can help maintain compliance with federal and state regulations as well as best practices. Attorneys (such as us at Hart David Carson LLP) can represent employers and employees alike in these issues.

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