can I ask to be reimbursed for my expenses in a driving-heavy job? — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I recently started my dream job — amazing start-up, coveted industry, huge promise, incredibly competent management (a gift I do not take for granted).

However, I’m working in arguably the most expensive metropolitan city on earth, one that is notorious for being a literal nightmare to drive or own a car in. I agreed to bring my car because I’m covering the entire state. However, my immediate responsibilities are focused on one metropolitan area. Uber costs are exorbitant and I’m transporting tables and merchandising display with me on a regular basis. I’m parallel parking an average of eight times a day, paying $30 or more in tolls a day, and redefining “wear and tear,” but lacking the 30-mile reimbursement minimum.

Additionally, I’m also the swag and merch hub for this regional market, as headquarters are in an entirely different state — which is getting a little tight because my city has tiny living spaces. I can’t leave items in my vehicle because I’d end up with broken windows.

I’ve been promised, and it was recently reiterated, that I will be making a far more accommodating salary in two months’ time. However, I entered this position with a very small savings account, and am already breaking the bank to keep up with the demands of the position (examples: “ADHD tax” of forgetting food at home, Ubering because I don’t feel focused/alert enough to drive safely, etc)

I’m trying to organize and prioritize my asks moving forward and would love your take on what is and isn’t appropriate, and what is the best approach in asking. It mostly includes:

• Parking: $400/month which could be avoided if I didn’t need a car, was able to afford a neighborhood with better parking, or didn’t need to use my car every day, as it takes about 45 minutes (sometimes twice that) on average to find street parking
• Tolls: EZ pass (but on the rare occasion I pass a toll for personal reasons doesn’t feel kosher)
• Stipend: possibly to cover parking + tolls + inevitable parking tickets (they’ve already agreed to pay tickets)
• Shelving and organizational items as I prefer a home space that doesn’t resemble a storage unit

I’m struggling to find a fair solution and want to present the information as professionally as possible. I knew this position would require hustling and organization, but I’m already feeling the financial stress impact my work performance. Hours of honking doesn’t help. I want to solve this proactively before its impact is noticed or I go broke.

You shouldn’t be paying to do your job, period. If your job involves traveling around the state and visiting various locations, the expenses involved in that travel — including parking and tolls — are business expenses. If they expect you to personally pay for the costs of doing your work, that’s outrageous. (The only exception to this is your actual commute to and from work. So if you have a home office you sometimes drive to, you’re generally responsible for getting yourself there and back. But the rest of it is on them.)

I’m not sure how your 30-mile reimbursement minimum works, but you should be tracking your mileage over the course of an entire week or month and submitting the total — not foregoing it just because an individual trip doesn’t add up to 30 miles.

It’s also reasonable to say that now that you see the full extent of their storage needs, you don’t have space in your home. If separate storage space isn’t possible, you’ll need to expense shelving to make it doable to store items at home.

It is not reasonable to expect they’ll pay for food because you forgot to bring lunch or for Ubers because you don’t feel focused enough to drive. (There are situations where the latter could be reasonable, but generally not in a driving-heavy position where you agreed to use your car as part of the job negotiations, unless it’s something like a short-term accommodation for a specific medical need … but not generally just “I don’t feel alert today.” If that’s happening a lot, a driving-focused position might not be a really good fit.)

Unfortunately, it’s also probably not reasonable to ask them to pay for parking costs that aren’t incurred in the actual performance of your work. It sounds like part of that $400/month in parking costs is for parking near your home at night (“could be avoided if I didn’t need a car or was able to afford a neighborhood with better parking”). That part is something you signed on for when you took a driving-heavy job and agreed to use your own car for it. Ideally you would have factored those costs into your salary negotiation, since you’re unlikely to be able to expense them now … although you could possibly lump all these costs together into one overall monthly driving subsidy and argue for it that way.

I will say, I am wary of promises that you’ll be making more in two months, particularly when they’re combined with any whiff of “so you should just suck up these expenses now.” Businesses should pay their own costs of doing business, not transfer them to employees — period. And if you are going to be paid more in two months (which I hope is in a written agreement!), that amount shouldn’t be reduced by having to continue to pay the business’s travel costs.

If this company really does have incredibly competent management, you should be able to lay all this out and transfer their business costs back to them (including getting reimbursed for costs you’ve already paid on their behalf). If that doesn’t work, I’m sorry to say it but you’d need to revisit that “incredibly competent” assessment.

#reimbursed #expenses #drivingheavy #job #Manager

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