This program allows employees to accrue compensatory time off for time spent by an employee in a travel status away from the employee’s official duty station when such time is not otherwise compensable. The travel must be officially authorized for work purposes and approved by an authorized official.
An employee as defined in Title 5 U.S.C. 5541(2), who is employed in an “Executive Agency,” as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105, ) is entitled to earn and use compensatory time off for travel regardless of whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Coverage includes employees in Senior Level (SL) and Scientific of Professional (ST) positions, Federal Wage System (or Wage Grade, WG), and commissioned (tenured) Foreign Service Officers (in pay plan FO) and Commissioned Foreign Service Officers (in pay plan FO).
Senior Executive Service members and intermittent employees (who do not have a scheduled tour of duty for leave purposes) are excluded from coverage.
Effective Dates of Coverage
Final regulations implementing compensatory time off for travel for most employees was effective May 17, 2007. Coverage for WG employees was effective April 27, 2008. Coverage for Foreign Service Officers (in pay plan FO) and Commissioned Foreign Service Officers (in pay plan FO) was effective June 8, 2006.
Creditable Travel Time
Time in a travel status includes the time the employee spends traveling between the official duty station and a temporary duty station (or the lodging in the temporary duty station) or between two temporary duty stations (or the lodging in the temporary duty station) and the “usual waiting time” that precedes or interrupts such travel.
“Usual waiting time” is the time required to arrive at the airport (or other transportation hub) for security checks-ins, etc., prior to a designated departure time.
Time spent at an intervening airport (or transportation hub) waiting for a connecting flight also is creditable time.
In the Department, “usual waiting time” is 2 hours for domestic travel and up to 4 hours for international travel.
Non-Creditable Travel Time
The following do not qualify as creditable time:
- Unusually long or extended waiting periods that occur prior to an employee’s initial departure time or between actual periods of travel if the employee is free to rest, sleep, or otherwise use the time for his/her own purposes;
- Long waiting periods that occur during an employee's regular scheduled working hours; these periods are compensable as part of the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek;
- Time spent traveling outside of an employee’s regular working hours to or from a transportation terminal that are within the limits of the employee’s official duty station;
- Time spent traveling in connection with the performance of union representational activities;
- Time spent traveling on a holiday or an “in-lieu-of” holiday; the employee is entitled to his or her rate of basic pay for the holiday hours; and
- Time spent at a temporary duty station between arrival and departure times; and
- Meal times.
Once an employee arrives at the temporary duty station (i.e., TDY work site, training site, or hotel at the temporary duty station), the employee is no longer considered to be in a travel status. Any time spent at a temporary duty station between arrival and departure is not creditable for earning compensatory time off for travel.
Offsetting Normal Commuting Time
When an employee travels directly between the home and a temporary duty station that is outside the limits of the employee's official duty station, the employee's normal “home-to-work/work-to-home” commuting time must be deducted from the creditable travel time.
Normal commuting time must also be deducted from the creditable travel time if the employee is required to travel outside of regular working hours between the home and a transportation hub outside the limits of the employee's official duty station.
Travel between Multiple Time Zones
When an employee’s travel involves two or more time zones, the time zone from the point of first departure must be used to determine travel status for accruing compensatory time off. For example, if an employee travels from his official duty station in Washington, DC, to a temporary duty station in Boulder, CO, the Washington, DC, time zone must be used to determine hours in a travel status. However, on the return trip to Washington, DC, the time zone from Boulder, CO, must be used to determine hours in a travel status
Timeframes for Use
An employee must use accrued compensatory time off by the end of the 26th pay period after the pay period during which it was earned and reported on the webTA.
All compensatory time off for travel must be used in the chronological order in which it was earned; that is, time earned first is used first.
Forfeiture of Unused Hours
Accumulated compensatory time that is unused by the end of the 26th pay period after the pay period in which it was earned is forfeited. Unused balances are also forfeited when an employee voluntarily transfers to another agency or separates from Federal service. Forfeited hours may not be paid or restored.
When an employee fails to use accumulated compensatory time balances within the required timeframe due to an exigency of the public service beyond the employee’s control, the time limit for using the hours may be extended for up to an additional 26 pay periods. Additional extensions are not authorized and forfeited hours may not be restored.
Exceptions to Forfeiture of Unused Hours
Unused compensatory time off for travel must be held in abeyance for an employee who separates, or is placed in a leave without pay (LWOP) status, and later returns:
- To perform service in the uniformed services (see 38 U.S.C. § 4303 and 5 CFR § 353.102) with restoration rights; and
- Due to an on-the-job injury with entitlement to injury compensation under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 81.
In these cases, the employee must use all of the compensatory time off for travel held in abeyance by the end of the 26th pay period following the pay period in which he/she returns to duty, or the compensatory time off will be forfeited.
Biweekly Salary Limitation and Aggregate Limitation on Pay
Compensatory time off for travel is not considered in applying the bi-weekly pay cap under 5 U.S.C. 5547 or the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 U.S.C.507.
Alternate Mode of Transportation
When an employee is allowed to use an alternate mode of transportation, or travels at a time/route other than what is initially approved by the authorizing official, creditable time for travel status must be estimated. The estimate is based on the amount of time the employee would have had if the mode of transportation or the time/route initially approved by the authorizing official was used. In determining the estimated amount of creditable time for travel that an employee would have had, the employee will be credited with the lesser of the:
- Estimated time in a travel status the employee would have had if the employee had traveled at the initially approved time, or
- Employee's actual time in a travel status at a time other than that initially approved.
Applying for Compensatory Time off for Travel
Employee must officially request the earning of compensatory time prior to the actual travel or within 10 calendar days of termination of the travel. The request may be submitted via the webTA Leave and Premium Pay Request functionality, Commerce Department Form CD-81, “Authorization for Paid Overtime and/or Holiday Work, and for Compensatory Overtime”, electronic mail, or memorandum. The request should estimate the number of hours the employee expects to earn. Upon the employee’s return from travel, the employee must provide a chronological record of travel information including:
- Duration of the normal home-to-work commute;
- Time and place of departure (i.e., the employee’s home or official duty station);
- Actual time spent traveling to and from the transportation terminal if the terminal is outside of the employee’s official duty station;
- Usual waiting time; and
- Time of arrival at and departure from the temporary duty station.
There is no limit on the amount of compensatory time for travel that may be earned.
Using Compensatory Time off for Travel
Compensatory time off for travel is credited and used in 15 minute increments with the compensatory time off for travel earned first being charged first. Additional leave will be charged in corresponding units. Employees must request permission from their supervisor or leave approving official to schedule the use of accrued compensatory time off via the webTA Leave and Premium Pay Request functionality, a SF-71, Application for Leave, or Form OPM-71, Request for Leave or Approved Absence.