Trail Builders’ Travel and Pay Guide

…in the U.S. anyway.

Below are resources for workers and employers when it comes to pay and travel to and from worksites, and away from home building trails.

Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act

U.S. Department of Labor FLSA page


When an Employer Must Pay for Travel Time under the FLSA

“The Portal-to-Portal Act [details several paragraphs below] and its regulations provide some helpful guidance regarding when an employer must count travel time as hours worked for wage payment and overtime purposes. Employers, especially those whose employees are frequently on the move, are wise to try to understand their obligations to employees who travel. If a situation does not fit squarely within the guidelines set forth above, it is recommended that an employer contact an attorney or HR professional to help them ensure compliance with the law.” Employment Law Handbook (Details on Travel Time Pay)

Time spent traveling during normal work hours is considered compensable work time.

Travel Expenses

IRS Topic No. 511 Business Travel Expenses: “If you regularly work in more than one place, your tax home is the general area where your main place of business or work is located.”

Deductible travel expenses while away from home include, but aren’t limited to, the costs of:

  1. Travel by airplane, train, bus or car between your home and your business destination. (If you’re provided with a ticket or you’re riding free as a result of a frequent traveler or similar program, your cost is zero.)
  2. Fares for taxis or other types of transportation between the airport or train station and your hotel, the hotel and the work location, and from one customer to another, or from one place of business to another.
  3. Shipping of baggage, and sample or display material between your regular and temporary work locations.
  4. Using your car while at your business destination. You can deduct actual expenses or the standard mileage rate, as well as business-related tolls and parking fees. If you rent a car, you can deduct only the business-use portion for the expenses.
  5. Meals and lodging.
  6. Dry cleaning and laundry.
  7. Business calls while on your business trip. (This includes business communications by fax machine or other communication devices.)
  8. Tips you pay for services related to any of these expenses.
  9. Other similar ordinary and necessary expenses related to your business travel. (These expenses might include transportation to and from a business meal, public stenographer’s fees, computer rental fees, and operating and maintaining a house trailer.

The golden rules for work travel are:

  1. Only deduct expenses that occur away from the tax home
  2. Only deduct expenses that are ordinary and necessary
  3. Keep all receipts
  4. Create and store a record of all expenses
  5. more: The Complete Guide to Deducting Business Travel Expenses: HR Block PDF

Per Diems

Mileage Reimbursement

IRS Standard Mileage Rates

Prevailing Wages

Prevailing wage laws require that wages for construction workers on public works projects be calculated to reflect local wages for similar jobs [in 26 states]… if a public works contract is for an amount in excess of $2,000 [sic-see Dollar Thresholds below], then prevailing wages must be paid. States must abide by the Davis-Bacon Act when federal funds are involved in public works projects within the state.

The prevailing wage law covers only construction workers in specific types of occupations and does not apply to all workers on public works projects. The prevailing wage for the covered occupations is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor through surveys of wages paid in those occupations in surrounding areas, so that the wages reflect the local economy.

National Conference of State Legislatures

The Federal minimum wage (currently $7.25) is certainly not “livable” to the point of being able to afford a mortgage, car and/or an education and vacations for that matter, union and construction rates are much better, and usually the case (or close) for most trail work rates. Of course you have to ask if Human Rentals are even legitimate in establishing just what rate/s should apply. At any rate, above and below are some resources for getting paid and traveling.

States Without Prevailing Wage Laws:

  1. Alabama – repealed in 1980
  2. Arizona – invalidated by 1980 court decision, Repealed in referendum in 1984
  3. Arkansas – repealed in 2017
  4. Colorado – repealed in 1985
  5. Florida – repealed in 1979
  6. Georgia
  7. Idaho – repealed in 1985
  8. Indiana – repealed in 2015
  9. Iowa
  10. Kansas – repealed in 1987
  11. Kentucky – repealed in 2017
  12. Louisiana – repealed in 1988
  13. Michigan – repealed in 2018
  14. Mississippi
  15. New Hampshire – repealed in 1985
  16. North Carolina
  17. North Dakota
  18. Oklahoma – invalidated by 1995 court decision
  19. South Carolina
  20. South Dakota
  21. Utah – repealed in 1981
  22. Wisconsin – repealed in 2017
  23. Virginia
  24. West Virginia – repealed in 2016

U.S. Department of Labor Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

U.S. Department of Labor regulations Wage and Hour Division Chapter 5 Parts 500-800 CFR Title 29 — Labor

Portal to Portal Act

PART 790

    • §790.3   Provisions of the statute. (a) (1) Walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform…
    • §790.5  Effect of Portal-to-Portal Act on determination of hours worked. (b) The operation of section 4(d) may be illustrated by the common situation of underground miners who spend time in traveling between the portal of the mine and the working face at the beginning and end of each workday. Before enactment of the Portal Act, time thus spent constituted hours worked. Under the law as changed by the Portal Act, if there is a contract between the employer and the miners calling for payment for all or a part of this travel, or if there is a custom or practice to the same effect of the kind described in section 4, the employer is still required to count as hours worked, for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act, all of the time spent in the travel which is so made compensable.(32) But if there is no such contract, custom, or practice, such time will be excluded in computing worktime for purposes of the Act. And under the provisions of section 4(c) of the Portal Act,(33) if a contract, custom, or practice of the kind described makes such travel compensable only during the portion of the day before the miners arrive at the working face and not during the portion of the day when they return from the working face to the portal of the mine, the only time spent in such travel which the employer is required to count as hours worked will be the time spent in traveling from the portal to the working face at the beginning of the workday.
    • §790.6   Periods within the “workday” unaffected. (a) Section 4 of the Portal Act does not affect the computation of hours worked within the “workday” proper, roughly described as the period “from whistle to whistle,” and its provisions have nothing to do with the compensability under the Fair Labor Standards Act of any activities engaged in by an employee during that period.(34) Under the provisions of section 4, one of the conditions that must be present before “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities are excluded from hours worked is that they ‘occur either prior to the time on any particular workday at which the employee commences, or subsequent to the time on any particular workday at which he ceases’ the principal activity or activities which he is employed to perform… The principles for determining hours worked within the “workday” proper will continue to be those established under the Fair Labor Standards Act [links below] without reference to the Portal Act,(36) which is concerned with this question only as it relates to time spent outside the “workday” in activities of the kind described in section [790].4 (37)
    • §790.7   “Preliminary” and “postliminary” activities. (a) Since section 4 of the Portal Act applies only to situations where employees engage in “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities outside the workday proper, it is necessary to consider what activities fall within this description. The fact that an employee devotes some of his time to an activity of this type is, however, not a sufficient reason for disregarding the time devoted to such activity in computing hours worked. If such time would otherwise be counted as time worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act, section 4 may not change the situation. Whether such time must be counted or may be disregarded, and whether the relief from liability or punishment afforded by section 4 of the Portal Act is available to the employer in such a situation will depend on the compensability of the activity under contract, custom, or practice within the meaning of that section.(40) On the other hand, the criteria described in the Portal Act have no bearing on the compensability or the status as worktime under the Fair Labor Standards Act of activities that are not “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities outside the workday.(41) (b) The words “preliminary activity” mean an activity engaged in by an employee before the commencement of his “principal” activity or activities, and the words “postliminary activity” means an activity engaged in by an employee after the completion of his “principal” activity or activities. (c) The statutory language and the legislative history indicate that the “walking, riding or traveling” to which section 4(a) refers is that which occurs, whether on or off the employer’s premises, in the course of an employee’s ordinary daily trips between his home or lodging and the actual place where he does what he is employed to do. It does not, however, include travel from the place of performance of one principal activity to the place of performance of another, nor does it include travel during the employee’s regular working hours.(44) For example, travel by a repairman from one place where he performs repair work to another such place, or travel by a messenger delivering messages, is not the kind of “walking, riding or traveling” described in section 4(a). Also, where an employee travels outside his regular working hours at the direction and on the business of his employer, the travel would not ordinarily be “walking, riding, or traveling” of the type referred to in section 4(a). One example would be a traveling employee whose duties require him to travel from town to town outside his regular working hours; another would be an employee who has gone home after completing his day’s work but is subsequently called out at night to travel a substantial distance and perform an emergency job for one of his employer’s customers.45 In situations such as these, where an employee’s travel is not of the kind to which section 4(a) of the Portal Act refers, the question whether the travel time is to be counted as worktime under the Fair Labor Standards Act will continue to be determined by principles established under this Act, without reference to the Portal Act.46 (d) An employee who walks, rides or otherwide travels while performing active duties is not engaged in the activities described in section 4(a). An illustration of such travel would be the carrying by a logger of a portable power saw or other heavy equipment (as distinguished from ordinary hand tools) on his trip into the woods to the cutting area. In such a situation, the walking, riding, or traveling is not segreable from the simultaneous performance of his assigned work (the carrying of the equipment, etc.) and it does not constitute travel “to and from the actual place of performance” of the principal activities he is employed to perform.(47) (e) where an employee performs his principal activity at various places (common examples would be a telephone lineman, a “trouble-shooter” in a manufacturing plant, a meter reader, or an exterminator) the travel between those places is not travel of the nature described in this section, and the Portal Act has not significance in determining whether the travel time should be counted as time worked. (h) As indicated above, an activity which is a “preliminary” or “postliminary” activity under one set of circumstances may be a principal activity under other conditions.(50) This may be illustrated by the following example: Waiting before the time established for the commencement of work would be regarded as a preliminary activity when the employee voluntarily arrives at his place of employment earlier than he is either required or expected to arrive…
    • §790.8   “Principal” activities. (a) …before it can be determined whether an activity is “preliminary or postliminary to (the) principal activity or activities” which the employee is employed to perform, it is generally necessary to determine what are such “principal” activities.(54) (b) (1) In connection with the operation of a lathe an employee will frequently at the commencement of his workday oil, grease or clean his machine, or install a new cutting tool. Such activities are an integral part of the principal activity, and are included within such term.

PART 785:

    • §785.12   Work performed away from the premises or job site. The rule is also applicable to work performed away from the premises or the job site, or even at home. If the employer knows or has reason to believe that the work is being performed, he must count the time as hours worked.
    • §785.15   On duty. A stenographer who reads a book while waiting for dictation, a messenger who works a crossword puzzle while awaiting assignments, fireman who plays checkers while waiting for alarms and a factory worker who talks to his fellow employees while waiting for machinery to be repaired are all working during their periods of inactivity. The rule also applies to employees who work away from the plant. For example, a repair man is working while he waits for his employer’s customer to get the premises in readiness. The time is worktime even though the employee is allowed to leave the premises or the job site during such periods of inactivity.
    • §785.16   Off duty…
    • §785.18   Rest. Rest periods of short duration, running from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry. They promote the efficiency of the employee and are customarily paid for as working time. They must be counted as hours worked. Compensable time of rest periods may not be offset against other working time such as compensable waiting time or on-call time.
    • §785.19   Meal. (a) Bona fide meal periods. Bona fide meal periods are not worktime. Bona fide meal periods do not include coffee breaks or time for snacks. These are rest periods. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purposes of eating regular meals. Ordinarily 30 minutes or more is long enough for a bona fide meal period. A shorter period may be long enough under special conditions. The employee is not relieved if he is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.
  • Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs
    • §785.27   General. Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time if the following four criteria are met: (a) Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours; (b) Attendance is in fact voluntary; (c) The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and (d) The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.
  • Traveltime
    • §785.34   Effect of section 4 of the Portal-to-Portal Act. The Portal Act provides in section 4(a) that except as provided in subsection (b) no employer shall be liable for the failure to pay the minimum wage or overtime compensation for time spent in “walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform either prior to the time on any particular workday at which such employee commences, or subsequent to the time on any particular workday at which he ceases, such principal activity or activities.” …
    • §785.38   Travel that is all in the day’s work. Time spent by an employee in travel as part of his principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked.
    • §785.39   Travel away from home community. Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly worktime when it cuts across the employee’s workday. The employee is simply substituting travel for other duties. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during the corresponding hours on nonworking days. Thus, if an employee regularly works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday the travel time during these hours is worktime on Saturday and Sunday as well as on the other days.
    • §785.40   When private automobile is used in travel away from home community. If an employee is offered public transportation but requests permission to drive his car instead, the employer may count as hours worked either the time spent driving the car or the time he would have had to count as hours worked during working hours if the employee had used the public conveyance.
  • Medical attention
    • §785.43  Time spent by an employee in waiting for and receiving medical attention on the premises or at the direction of the employer during the employee’s normal working hours on days when he is working constitutes hours worked.

Breaks and Meal Periods

Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks. However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that would be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime was worked.

US Dept of Labor Break and Meal page


Legalese unencrypted

Forthcoming…until then, read it all again.

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