Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reimbursement

I've mentioned having traveled to Maryland for work, recently. I didn't want to go but eventually I agreed as I could use the opportunity to find in-network providers along the way. Flying wasn't an option, really, since my allergies cause cold-like symptoms and you do NOT want to get on a plane when you have cold symptoms - even if you're almost over it. Besides that, the hassles of traveling by air in a post-9/11 world are too much to bear under anything but extraordinary circumstances.

Anyway, I agreed to drive to Maryland. Prior to doing so, I read the applicable personnel manual sections, researched the air travel prices, filled out the necessary travel authorization paperwork, including an estimate of the reimbursement amount, and got it signed by two of my "superiors." No one ever sat me down and briefed me on the travel policies and procedures. I did most of these things on my own.

As I've explained, in other posts, I experienced quite a bit of challenge and difficulty during, after, and as a result of this trip. Since I was sick the first week, after returning, I didn't turn in my post-travel reimbursement forms until ten days after leaving Maryland. The mileage was greater than expected, as was the final dollar amount, but I put the real numbers on there and let the chips fall where they may.

I realized the company might decide not to pay over the estimated amount. This would not please me but it was at least anticipated.

What happened instead was that, not only did the company decline to pay the $170 over the initial estimate, they actually want to pay me about $240 less than the estimate. They claim that the estimate doesn't really mean anything. It's only an estimate.

I said that I know what an estimate is. It means the amount may be lower... or it maybe higher. It's strange to me that they would find $170 over to be completely unacceptable yet $240 under is perfectly fine.

All of this after they already got me to go on this trip, of course.

My response has been one of displeasure expressed while maintaining a calm, professional tone, despite the fact that some of them are talking to me like I'm some kind of con artist and they're the powerless and meek.

Please. As far as I'm concerned, if things stand like this, this is an example of the big guy picking on the little guy because he can't hit as hard.


EDIT: For clarity's sake, I thought I'd add the following explanation from the comments section.

"To be clear, it's a matter of receipts, but it's largely a matter of mileage that factored into the initial reimbursement estimate.

The organization has a policy to only pay for traveling fees comparable to the least expensive modes of travel. In other words, if driving X-number of miles at a mileage rate of $0.48 per mile would amount to a $1000 reimbursement for the driver, but taking a flight would cost $600, then the traveler should either drive and expect no more than $600 or s/he should take the $600 flight.

They keep suggesting that I haven't read the relevant sections of the personnel manual, which quotes this policy, but they're mistaken. I got flight quotes and they were comparable to my reimbursement estimate.

The company said they couldn't get any quotes from the past couple of weeks, so I provided them with a fax of one of the estimates that I got. They then decided to get estimates a couple of weeks, into the future. That flight amount (or price average or whatever) was cheaper was about a couple of hundred dollars less than my estimate.

Bottom-line, they're saying a flight would've been cheaper so they're gonna pay me the cost of the flight plus my good and toll (not gas) receipts. EDITED TO ADD: I disagree based on flight quotes from before the trip, not after."

I hope that helps. I'm happy to have folks agree with me, of course, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't because I was unfairly or unclearly reporting the facts.

15 comments:

chele said...

I know what you mean about the air travel, my friend. My experience was ... frustrating to say the least.

Regarding the reimbursement ... your employer sucks. I generally turn in my receipts and I'm paid for exactly what I spent.

Michael May said...

I agree with chele. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Miz JJ said...

I do not understand why they want to pay you so much less than your estimate? You gave them your documents and they do not want to accept them? To quote Chele your employer sucks.

West said...

To be clear, it's a matter of receipts, but it's largely a matter of mileage that factored into the initial reimbursement estimate.

The organization has a policy to only pay for traveling fees comparable to the least expensive modes of travel. In other words, if driving X-number of miles at a mileage rate of $0.48 per mile would amount to a $1000 reimbursement for the driver, but taking a flight would cost $600, then the traveler should either drive and expect no more than $600 or s/he should take the $600 flight.

They keep suggesting that I haven't read the relevant sections of the personnel manual, which quotes this policy, but they're mistaken. I got flight quotes and they were comparable to my reimbursement estimate.

The company said they couldn't get any quotes from the past couple of weeks, so I provided them with a fax of one of the estimates that I got. They then decided to get estimates a couple of weeks, into the future. That flight amount (or price average or whatever) was cheaper was about a couple of hundred dollars less than my estimate.

Bottom-line, they're saying a flight would've been cheaper so they're gonna pay me the cost of the flight plus my good and toll (not gas) receipts.

I'll edit this into the post.

beef mug said...

Would flying really have been that bad? I've flown post 9/11 and besides having to be at the airport earlier, it really isn't much of a hassle. Also how long is flight to MD from wherever in the South you are really going to take? Not more than 3 hours?

I'm sorry but I wouldn't have compensated you either for taking the most expensive option.

West said...

As I mentioned, I had symptoms which precluded flying. Flying when you have cold/sinus problems can be gambling with your hearing.

Actress Marley Matlin lost her hearing that way, from what I understand.

At any rate, beef, you're entitled to your opinion, but it doesn't seem to take into account all the relevant elements. Maybe that's because I haven't presented them well enough or maybe you get it but you simply disagree.

But as far as I'm concerned, all of this should've been worked out before I left, not after I returned. They shouldn't have signed off on my estimated reimbursement amount if they weren't prepared to pay it.

If you think that was fair, then you and I have very, very different ideas about fairness, equity, and justice.

Anonymous said...

I understood that the flight might aggravate your situation. Personally if given the choice between a flight and a long-drive, I'd take the plane.

I do agree that they should have not agreed to let you go knowing that you were going to drive.

beef mug said...

oops, previous comment was by me...

West said...

I don't see risking my hearing and experiencing extreme pain as "aggravating [my] situation."

I understand that others might make different choices, but this choice made more sense for me as someone with medical concerns, few local in-network providers, and sinus and allergy issues.

My co-worker who also traveled from Florida, but went by plane, experienced the ear pain I mentioned above. Luckily, hers was just for about 15 minutes (well her and the other folks on the plane who experienced it), since she just had a little sinus trouble.

So, this wasn't a false guess on my part. This would have been my reality OR I would've not taken the flight and had to find my way around Maryland with no transportation and no lodging, while I searched for medical care and hoped I could take a flight x-number of days, later.

beef mug said...

To aggravate is to make worse.

The flight would've have aggravated your medical problem.

I repeat: I understand that the flight might have aggravated your medical situation.

West said...

This is the world of semantics we're delving into, but I promise I'll keep it brief.

With respect, I find that making my eardrums burst or almost burst isn't exactly "aggravating" my allergies.

I know not all distinctions are worth a quibble, but I found this one worthwhile.

Even though we disagree, I thank you for sharing your opinion.

Anonymous said...

I'd say making your eardrums burst is worsening your medical condition (aggravating).

WE ARE IN AGREEMENT that the flight might have made your condition worse. Why can't you see that we are agreeing, not disagreeing???

Perhaps you are seeing your allergies as a separate issue from your bursting eardrums... I see that your allergies are part of your medical problem.

You are really quite defensive with someone who is in essence agreeing with you.

West said...

As I recall, you said, "I wouldn't have compensated you either for taking the most expensive option."

Obviously, I disagreed with that assessment.

I felt that the "aggravat[ion]" point was an understatement, at best.

So, you're free to see that as defensiveness, but the post is called "reimbursement" and you said you don't think I should've gotten any. So, from my perspective the "essence" of your comment is dis-"agreeing with [me]."

But I'm prepared to agree to disagree about that, too.

Anonymous said...

ok

Yes I do think you shouldn't get reimbursed.

Yes I do think the flight might have aggravated your condition.

Yes I think your employers should have not approved the trip before you went on it.

I hope my position is clear.

I have an annoying habit of seeing both sides of an argument (your side and your boss' side).

West said...

I don't see anything annoying about people being able and willing to see both sides of an argument. In fact, I think it is an admirable trait.

I will admit to being confused by how you could think that they shouldn't have agreed, but even though they did, I shouldn't get my full reimbursement.

Also, to be clear, the flight fee/quote they came up with wasn't from the past (meaning, before my trip). It was from 15 days into the future. The quotes that *I* came up with *were* before my trip - they just weren't through the company's travel agency, which I didn't realize I needed to reference.

But the thing is, the company didn't reference them, either - not until after I returned.

Regardless, the price from my estimated travel reimbursement was comparable to that of the airline tickets for the same time plus the price of a rental car, meals, etc.

So, I chose a comparable option. The alternative would've been not to go, at all - which would've been fine with me.