A May 2024 compliance agreement between The Boeing Co. and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries involving over $11.5 million in pay to 495 employees for travel time spent returning grounded planes to service highlights the differences between state and federal law regarding travel time.

Under federal law, employers are generally only required to pay employees for out-of-town travel that takes place during an employee’s normal work hours. However, employees who are covered by Washington State’s wage and hour laws must be paid for travel time that is authorized or required by their employers regardless of the time of day when it takes place. When there are differences between federal and state laws governing labor standards, the law that is more favorable or protective of the employee controls. Therefore, it is important that employers who have employees located in Washington State understand and follow Washington law regarding pay for travel time.

As explained in Administrative Policy ES.C.2 (wa.gov), under Washington law, “Employers must pay employees for all ‘hours worked.’ ‘Hours worked’ means all work requested, suffered, permitted, or allowed while on duty on the employer’s premises or at a prescribed workplace, and includes travel time, training and meeting time, wait time, on-call time, preparatory and concluding time, and may include meal periods.” The requirement to pay for time employees spend traveling for work-related purposes applies regardless of whether they are traveling during their normal work hours:

In Washington, all travel time related to work is compensable regardless of the number of hours or when the travel takes place. It also includes any time necessary to get to an airport, train station, or other transit center necessary to complete the out-of-town travel. ...

Compensable out-of-town travel takes place for the employer’s benefit and is requested to meet the needs of a particular assignment. Such  travel time is an integral part of the principal activity that the employee was hired to perform (i.e. it is an integral component of the work assignment or job task). This is true regardless of whether the employee engages in additional work during the journey or whether the employer owns or controls the employee’s means of transport. Because the travel itself is a duty of the work assignment, so long as the employer approves the means of travel, the employee is authorized to be on duty at a prescribed workplace throughout the active travel time and therefore the time meets all three elements of the hours worked rule.

On the other hand, an employee’s ordinary commute from home to the workplace typically does not satisfy the elements of “hours worked.” 

For more guidance on interpreting “hours worked” under Washington law, see Administrative Policy ES.C.2 (wa.gov).


This summary is a broad overview of a complex topic, and it does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact ksutherland@omwlaw.com or any other member of the Ogden Murphy Wallace, P.L.L.C. Employment and Labor Law Group.