Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hey Fletch … We have a full-time youth pastor and a part-time youth administrative assistant. We have a youth retreat coming up and we are trying to figure out how to pay or not pay for our PT admin to go on the retreat. What are the laws and best practices for PT workers at camps and retreats?

DRF— This is a humdinger of a question and a challenging topic. Your employee is non-exempt. This means that they are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Your pastor is not covered by the FLSA. The Administrative Assistant, being covered by the FLSA, brings various regulations.

Let me start by giving some relevant webpages and quotes on the topic. Then, I will summarize the information.

The U.S. Department of Labor writes: “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.”

One website notes: “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has a complex set of conditional rules for when and how non-exempt employees should be paid. The issue of pay for travel is particularly sticky and is addressed at both the federal and, in many cases, the state level as well. The remedy is often based on the specifics of the situation and depends on the purpose of the travel, where the employer is located and the type of work being performed. A key question to ask when evaluating these circumstances is: Is the travel for the employer’s or the employee’s benefit?” 

They continue with: “Overnight travel that spills into a weekend must be carefully measured to ensure that the hourly employee is paid at the correct rate. For example, if the employer defines the work week Sunday through Saturday and an employee travels for work over the course of a weekend, the time paid for working on a Saturday may qualify for overtime pay if the employee’s total hours worked exceeds 40 hours.” 

Another website gives some helpful insight: “Business trips to other states or cities must be paid. Travel to and from the airport does not have to be paid; this travel is analogous to travel to and from work. However, time spent waiting for the plane, in the plane and renting a car or waiting for a cab must be covered at the employee’s normal hourly rate. Employers must also pay for time spent working, including attending seminars and meeting with clients. Employers do not have to pay for time spent sleeping, in the hotel or at lunch.”

I don’t see that your state adds to the federal regulations concerning employee travel.

Let me bring all these together for you. The youth retreat would be counted as work time for the administrative assistant. As a non-exempt employee, they cannot volunteer for this assignment. The assistant cannot count travel to the church or the airport, but can count hours to the retreat, either at the airport or airplane, or in the van or automobile. 

While at the retreat, they can work a regular work day, or longer, so long as it does not come to more than 40 hours in their workweek. You do not have to pay for sleep time. You may be able to give the assistant time off before the retreat, so that their work week does not exceed 40 hours.

As I said before, you have asked a humdinger of a question. It is challenging!