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In basic terms, an employer cannot force you to travel on your job without your consent. Both federal and state employment legislation takes this factor into account. 

For example, the U.S. Department of Labor says, “Employees are protected . . . against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for engaging in certain [employment] activities, such as traveling for work.”

State employment laws may also offer more protections. Therefore, employees have a right to refuse travel for concrete and valid reasons. 

For example, an employee can refuse to travel if they are not given sufficient rest periods between trips or they’re required to travel in unsafe conditions.

Employers also have the right to place certain limitations on employees who travel. For example, an employer may ask an employee to travel only on specific days or for a certain period during the month.

If you have concerns about your work travel and your employee rights, speak with an employment lawyer in California today. 

“Requesting” or “Forcing” Travel: There is a Difference

The difference between “requesting” an employee to travel or “forcing” them to travel is notably different. Forcing an employee to travel without their consent prevents the employee from exerting their right to say “yes” or “no.” They may be worried about saying “no” to the obligation if they are afraid they’ll lose their job.

If you’re an employee who feels they’ve been forced into traveling while on the job, you need to consult with an employment attorney.

Asking or requesting the employee to travel gives them the latitude to agree to or refuse an employer’s job request. 

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. You just need to distinguish between what is defined as a job requirement and what is considered optional or negotiable.

Travel-Related Compensation for California Employees

California law provides several protections for employees who travel for work. These protections ensure that employees are fairly compensated for their time and expenses related to travel. Here are some of the key aspects of travel-related compensation for California employees:

can employers force you to travel

Travel Time

Under California law, travel time is considered work time if it occurs during an employee’s regular work hours. For example, if an employee normally works from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and is required to travel from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, that travel time must be compensated as work time. However, if an employee is required to travel outside of their regular work hours, such as on weekends or after hours, that travel time may not be considered work time and may not be compensable.

Reimbursement for Expenses

State law requires employers to reimburse employees for necessary expenses incurred during work-related travel. These expenses may include transportation, lodging, meals, and other necessary expenses. Employers must reimburse employees for these expenses regardless of whether the expenses were incurred through the use of a company credit card or personal funds. 

Employers must also ensure that the reimbursement rate is sufficient to cover the actual expenses incurred by the employee.

Overtime Pay

If an employee is required to work overtime during travel, they must be paid overtime wages according to California law. Overtime pay is calculated as 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. If the employee works more than 12 hours in a workday, they must be paid double their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours.

Accommodations for Employees Who Travel

If an employee is required to stay overnight during work-related travel, their employer must provide reasonable accommodations. These accommodations may include a hotel room, a business-owned apartment, or other suitable arrangements.

Federal law also requires that employers offer additional reasonable accommodations to employees who travel and have disabilities or follow certain religious practices. If a disability requires an accessible hotel room or vehicle, the employer must ensure one is available to the employee. If the employee must take breaks or have other accommodations for their religious beliefs, these should apply while the employee is traveling, as well. 

Meeting a Job’s Travel Requirements

If an employer requires that you travel on the job, they should also make sure you can meet this requirement. If you need to drive for your work, you’ll need to have a driver’s license and insurance and be able to travel as needed.

Maybe you’re afraid to fly, but you have to travel by plane three or four times yearly. If so, you may be able to work out a plan where you can rent a car and drive instead. 

Videoconferencing may be an option as well, especially if you do not have to be physically present offsite. In fact, web conferencing or video conferencing often are used in place of on-the-job travel. 

An employee may also be reassigned to an open position that does not require travel, where they can use the same skill set for their job. If your employee requests that you travel when you cannot due to health or family matters or simply because you do not want to, you should have options. 

Call a San Diego, CA, Employment Lawyer If You Have a Work-Related Dispute

Even if you are more than willing to travel for work, many concerns may arise regarding your employee rights. 

Are you being paid fairly? Is your employer giving you rest breaks or supporting your job activities so you can do your job? 

Too many employers take advantage of traveling employees and fail to pay them proper wages, provide reimbursement, or fail to make the necessary accommodations. When this happens, it is important that employees protect their rights and seek legal relief from their employers with the right legal help. 

If you have any employment questions, you should schedule an appointment with an experienced employment lawyer in the San Diego area. Arrange a time to meet and discuss your job concerns by contacting Mara Law Firm, a California-based professional legal firm.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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