Good question. Given what you've stated here, it seems that, yes, your employer is probably obligated to pay you for the time you spend travelling from house to house under both WI Wage & Hour law and the federal Portal-to-Portal Act. The Portal-to-Portal acts states that travel time that is "part of [an employee's] principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked" and, thus, the employee must be compensated accordingly.
Because the outcome of each case depends heavily on the specific facts and circumstances involved, you should contact an employment law attorney in WI to assist you further.
Scott S. Luzi
Walcheske & Luzi, LLC
I agree that you should receive compensation as hours worked on the job. However, I don't believe you will need assistance from a lawyer (unless your employer continues to refuse paying you). However, if he continues to refuse paying you, please send me an email.
I will assume that your employer won't pay this time voluntarilly, so that you are looking at legal means to recover for this travel time. Given that assumption, I don't think there is a clear answer to your question. If you are employed as an independent contractor, though being paid by the hour for services, and you are not a true employee for wages purposes, then you would only have a claim if your agreement with the employer/principal provides for payment of travel time. If your relationship is called an independent contractor, but you believe you are in fact a true employee, then you will have to have this issue decided by a court, the Wisconsin Labor Standards Bureau, or both. As Mr. Luzi mentions, once you begin work, that is a principal activity, subsequent travel should be compensable. But this is a developing area of the law, and Federal and Wisconsin standards may differ. You can file a complaint in court or with the Labor Standards Bureau with or without an attorney. But given the complexity of the issue, you may find it beneficial to talk to an attorney that handles wage and hour claims.