Thursday Troubleshooter: Should errands (and gas) for the dental practice be paid by employer?

This dental front office manager has run errands for this small practice for a long time. Now she's wondering if she can be compensated for her time and gas expenses.

Mar 29th, 2018
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Nearly everyone has problems and concerns on the job, and sometimes you're just too close to a situation to solve something yourself. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will examine the issues and provide guidance. Send questions to megk@pennwell.com.

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QUESTION: My question concerns compensation for employees who use their own time, vehicle, and gas for business purposes, such as going to the post office or bank. How is this subject brought up to the owner dentist? We have a small office and the front office manager has always been in charge of taking deposits to the bank and picking up the mail without being compensated. Any suggestions?

ANSWER FROM KURT TULLAR, JD,CEDR HR Solutions Center department:
Compensating employees fairly for travel time is a tricky subject and can depend on the state. For the purposes of this question, I will assume your state doesn't have any applicable laws and I will default to the federal guidelines.

Activities performed by employees for the benefit of the employer should be paid time, on top of reimbursing the expense of the travel (which would likely be the mileage expense in this case). This means that any time spent by the employee doing errands for work, even if it is part of a personal trip such as the commute home, should be paid time. Then the office should reimburse the employee for the miles driven based on the IRS reimbursement rate for that year, which is 54.5 cents per mile in 2018.

Note that if the trip is part personal and part business, the employer needs to cover only the time and expense of the business portion. Also, if the employee normally works a full 40-hour workweek, this additional travel and work time could push the person into overtime.

Lastly, it is important to remember that when an employee is working on the office’s behalf, any accident or other claim the person becomes involved in may involve the business as well. This issue most commonly arises because of a vehicular accident, so it behooves smart employers to ensure that any employees who drive on their behalf are properly licensed and insured.

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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to megk@pennwell.com for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their problems on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.


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