Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
One of my subordinates was on a temporary duty assignment for training. On his return flight, the employee missed his connection, even though the layover was nearly an hour and a half long. The next flight to his original destination did not leave for nearly seven hours. Therefore, the employee requested and the Agency authorized an alternate flight, which approximately three hours later. Is the employee to be compensated for the four and a half hour layover? What about his meals, shopping time, and the time he spent waiting for his luggage?
The answer to your question is found in 5 C.F.R. § 550.1404. Generally, if an employee is required to travel away from his official duty station and the travel time is not otherwise compensable (e.g. the time did not fall within regular duty hours, compensation was not authorized by a separate statute, etc.), the Agency must provide the employee with creditable time off.
Employees are credited for a “usual waiting time” as part of their time in travel status when their travel is interrupted, but they are not credited for “extended waiting time,” where an employee is free to use his time as he desires, such as time spent shopping. The Agency has sole discretion for determining how long the “usual waiting time” is, and this seven hour wait may be beyond the Agency’s defined “usual waiting time.” Meal times are explicitly not creditable as time in travel status.
Additionally, when an employee is offered one travel plan by the Agency and is then permitted to use an alternate travel plan, the Agency must estimate the amount of time in travel status the employee would have had if the employee used in the travel plan offered by the Agency. The Agency must credit the employee with either the estimated amount of time in travel status under the travel plan offered by the Agency or the actual time in travel status used by the employee, whichever is less.
In this case, it appears you should provide the employee with the creditable time off which you estimate he would have been entitled to had he traveled in accordance with the Agency’s original itinerary, and not credit him for any “extended wait time” while the employee waited for his rescheduled flight.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.
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