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

March 29, 2018
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.

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 [email protected].


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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About the Author

Team Troubleshooter

This weekly column on DentistryIQ features questions from everyday people who work in dental practices, who have issues they would like addressed by the experts. Those who regularly take the time to answer questions include Rebecca Boartfield, Patti DiGangi, Dr. Chris Salierno, Laura Hatch, Karen Daw, Jill Townsend, Lisa Marie Spradley, Shelley Renee, Judy Kay Mausolf, Robin Morrison, Paul Edwards ... and the list is growing.

Send your question or issue for an expert to address to [email protected].. You'll be glad you did.