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If a manager sends you to a different location, should you be forced to use your lunchtime for travel?

Wednesday July 25, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

If a manager sends you to a different location, should you be forced to use your lunchtime for travel?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear William,

Some general comments can be made about your question, but due to the lack of specific details, it would be best for you to consult with a nurse or nurse attorney who can provide you with the exact information you need.

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require meal or rest breaks. If it is required in your state, then state law would control whether the use of your lunch as travel time is consistent with the law. You can check your state's law on this issue by going to: http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm.

Another federal law, The Portal-to-Portal Act, a 1947 amendment to the FLSA, states that compensable times generally include meal periods if the employee is not relieved of all of his duties, is not free to leave his post or position, or the time for meals is less than 30 minutes. It sounds as though the use of your mealtime as travel might require it to be counted as hours of work.

Also, travel time that occurs during the workday or is required by the employer is also compensable under this Act. So, if it is possible to use your lunchtime for travel in your state, you may be eligible to receive pay for that time, just as though you were working but not traveling and using your lunchtime.

You should check into this so you understand what is possible under state and federal law, and whether the time is considered hours of work for which payment is required.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.