Sunday, January 17, 2021

Can I request mileage reimbursement for miles not technically traveled?

A reader from Canada we're calling "Winnie" works full-time at a company located about 40 miles from her home. Winnie also has a part-time job near her full-time place of employment for which she takes one hour of unpaid time off during lunch time to facilitate an early childhood music program. 

Both her full-time and part-time employers know about her two jobs.

The pay Winnie receives for the part-time job comes from a grant that also includes a budget for mileage reimbursement.

Winnie wants to know if it is ethical for her to ask for money from the budgeted mileage reimbursement allotment if she already has to travel to the location for her full-time job.

Winnie also wants to know if it would be ethical to consider offering the music program during a paid lunch break and still receive compensation for facilitating the class instead of taking an unpaid hour off as she is currently doing. "Would this be a conflict-of-interest with my main employer?"

As I mention regularly when responding to workplace issues, I am not a lawyer so I am not qualified to offer a legal response to Winnie's questions. But I can respond to what seems to be the right thing for Winnie to do.

Let's take her second question first. If Winnie wants to get paid for a lunch break and get paid to run the music program during said lunch break, her best course of action would be to let each employer know that is what she is doing. She may not be legally obligated to do this, but to maintain a good working relationship with each employer the best course of action would be to keep them informed. A question as simple as "Do you have any issue if I facilitate this program during my lunch break?" should suffice.

Her first question about mileage seems a little trickier at first, but because of the order in which she does her jobs, the appropriate course of action is actually pretty clear. If Winnie was offering the class before her full-time job, then asking for reimbursement from home to that job plus mileage from that job to her full-time place of employment might seem fair. But since Winnie is traveling to her full-time job first and that job does not offer mileage reimbursement, then requesting reimbursement for the entire mileage from the part-time job is inappropriate.

Based on how Winnie currently structures her workday, what does seem appropriate is for her to request a mileage reimbursement for the one or two miles she drives before and after lunchtime from her full-time job to her part-time job. Those are miles she wouldn't have had to drive for her full-time job.

An alternative would be for Winnie to simply talk to whoever manages the grant at her part-time job and ask them for advice on handling mileage reimbursement.

That may not be the legal answer, but it strikes me as the right thing for Winnie to consider. That she continues to put in the time to teach young children music also seems a pretty good thing, too. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin. 


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