DEAR CARRIE: I work as a construction inspector for a small Nassau County firm. When I commuted into New York City, the firm used to reimburse me one-half of the cost of the commute. I figured that was fair since the mileage from my home to the office was deducted from the total, and that averaged 50 percent of the cost. I’m now in another location and have submitted expense reports for commuting to job sites from the office and back. But I am told that I will not be reimbursed. Is this allowed? I thought that labor law considers the office as home base and that the company must pay for mileage for travel to job sites. — Miles to Go
DEAR MILES: Your question actually touches upon two concepts. One concerns mileage reimbursement, and the other is compensation for traveling between worksites.
In the first instance, which largely covers your issue, some companies reimburse employees for mileage when they use their cars for work. But companies aren’t required to do so. And if they don’t, then their employees may be able to write off some of the travel expenses on their taxes.
Regarding the second issue, hourly employees who travel between worksites have to be paid for that time. But they generally don’t have to be paid for their normal commute from home to the office or the reverse because that is not considered time worked.
And exempt workers, those who are exempt from overtime because they are managers or their jobs require a degree, among other reasons, don’t have to be paid for travel time between worksites. As an inspector, you may fall into that category.
DEAR CARRIE: I am a doctor with a small medical practice. I have been paying the full cost for my office manager’s health benefits. She is charged nothing for the premium. Now, for financial reasons, I need to ask her to pay at least 60 percent toward the cost. Can I legally change the terms of her benefits package? It pains me to do so, but the full cost of her insurance has become a burden for me. — Beneficial Inquiry
DEAR BENEFICIAL: If you have fewer than 50 full-time employees, and it sounds as if you do, you have a lot of leeway.
And here’s why: The Affordable Care Act doesn’t require businesses of that size to offer insurance to their employees. So when they do, they can set the terms.
“Small employers like the reader may structure their employees’ health insurance benefits however they want to,” said employment attorney Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.
Changes can be made at any time, including changes in the percentage of the premiums that participating employees must contribute, he said.
But this is key: “Any changes must be prospective, though, not retroactive,” he said.
In other words if you promised her benefits for all of this 2017, you can’t legally go back on that promise. But for the next year you can feel free to reset terms. New York State doesn’t require employers to offer benefits, but it does require them to honor what they promise.
DEAR CARRIE: I own an insurance agency and would love to hire a licensed senior for my office, but I don’t know how to find such a person. Any suggestions? — Seeking Older Worker
DEAR SEEKING I contacted the national office of AARP, and it suggested that you post your job at bit.ly/LIjoblook, which is an AARP job board site.
Go to bit.ly/LIACA for more on small companies and the Affordable Care Act.