The Employee Commuting Flexibility Act (ECFA) makes commuting in a company car noncompensable only if the use of the employer’s vehicle is “for travel that is within the normal commuting area” of the business, explains Franczek Radelet associate Doug Hass on Wage and Hour Insights.

He notes that the U.S. Department of Labor has said compensation would be necessary if “the time involved is extraordinary.” However, Hass says the problem is that neither the Fair Labor Standards Act nor ECFA offer any definitive guidance on what constitutes a “normal commuting area” or when the time is deemed “extraordinary.” The Labor Department and courts haven’t offered a rule of thumb either.

So what’s a company to do? Hass advises companies to look to the regulations that apply to federal government employees.

He says federal rules require that if an employee is traveling directly from home to a “temporary duty location outside the limits of his or her official duty station, the time the employee would have spent in normal home to work travel shall be deducted from hours of work.”

For example, Hass says a federal employee who travels from home to places within his or her duty station is not compensated, no matter how long it takes. Commuting outside those areas is compensable, once the normal commute is subtracted.