The Tennessee Attorney General issued an Opinion in October 2011 confirming that Tenn. Code Ann. § 22-4-106(b) requires an employer to pay an employee for travel time to and from jury duty if the employee does not receive compensation for travel as part of the employee’s usual duties. According to the Opinion, an employer must compensate for that travel time, as well as for the service on the jury, subject to limitations in the statute. This does not apply to employers who have fewer than five regular employees or to temporary employees who have worked less than six months. The Opinion may be viewed here.
The statute provides:
Notwithstanding the excused absence as herein provided in subsection (a), the employee shall be entitled to the employee’s usual compensation received from such employment; however, the employer has the discretion to deduct the amount of the fee or compensation the employee receives for serving as a juror. Moreover, no employer shall be required to compensate an employee for more time than was actually spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty. If an employer employs less than five (5) people on a regular basis or if the juror has been employed by an employer on a temporary basis for less than six (6) months the employer is not required to compensate the juror during the period of jury service pursuant to this section.
The FLSA does not require employers to compensate for travel to the regular place of work. Therefore, an employee who commutes to work and then works regular shift is only compensated at the regular rate for the shift. As the Opinion clarifies, a Tennessee employer must pay “usual compensation,” for time “actually spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty” according to Tennessee law. “Usual compensation” is the regular rate of pay. Thus, an employee who travels half an hour from home to court and serves eight hours on jury duty should be paid for 9 hours—one hour for travel plus eight hours for jury duty.
The AG does not specifically address salaried employees, but opines that legislative history is consistent with paying a salaried employee on a pro-rated basis if jury duty is less than a regular work day.
How do you treat payment for employees who are “On the Road Again”?
A basic tenant of employment law provides that an employee is responsible for getting to work, and the employer is not obligated to pay for this commute time to work (unless the employee works during the travel). That commute or home-to-work travel is not pay time under the FLSA pursuant to the Portal-to-Portal Act. However, there are times that the employer should pay the employee for travel time. The question is whether the travel is for the organization’s benefit (trips out of town, to clients, etc.) or for the employee’s benefit (getting to the workplace). Even if the employee works at different job sites, travel to the site is not compensable, unless the employee must report to a central location and then is sent to a remote job site.
Travel that is part of the regular daily duties of the employee, such as visits to customers, must be counted as work time. For day trips, any travel to the ultimate location is compensable. However, travel to an airport or other mass transit terminal is treated as home-to-work travel. For an overnight stay, all travel during normal working hours, regardless of the day of the week, is compensable.
“The life I love is makin’ music with my friends, and I can’t wait to get on the road again.” Sorry if you have Willie Nelson in your head now.