Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mail | Totaled car on company time; now what?!

In an e-mail, a reader tells an alarming story about what they say was a Gannett worksite's response after they got in a car accident last spring while driving their own car on company business. The writer is now working for another employer. Here's an edited version:

Is there a uniform policy within Gannett when an employee is on the job and gets involved in an accident that deems the vehicle a total loss?

This actually happened to me back in March, when I was on a company business trip and my newspaper site, Florida Today, told me that there was nothing they could do . . . including pay for my deductible.

A few of my colleagues just shrugged their shoulders; others were surprised and fearful that they would be in the same situation, and others simply said that there was a policy in place, but they couldn't remember it. We pored through the handbook, and there is no policy at all regarding use of cars for business purposes, and we were shocked, since we all at the community newspaper sites use our cars extensively for business.

My car was paid for, and if I hadn't decided to buy a clunker for cash, I would have been stuck with another five years of car payments.

Related: A list of GCI's current employee benefits.

Is there really no policy on personal car use for company business? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. That's standard. That's why we have to have our own insurance. Not to be cold, but get over it. THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. At the site I work at we claim to cover the whole state. They think nothing on sending people on day trips that are 5 hours from our office. That's a 10 hour drive round trip. Go up, cover the assignment and drive back in one day. If you get tired? Buy a Red Bull. Remember, employees are liabilities, not assets. Management's goal at every turn is to reduce liabilities.

  2. Of course the policy varies by state. It's based on statute. You should call a lawyer.

  3. This is a worthless bit. Have insurance; end of story.

    Why is this even here?

  4. 10:08 is exactly right. Use your own car, take your own risks. If you drive too much, you'll get yelled at for making too much at the mileage rate of just over half what the government rate allows. If you don't do your job regardless of mileage, you get yelled at too. You can rent for company use, but again it falls back onto the employee. Pretty much it's damned if you do and damned if you don't.

  5. To the person who asked "Why is this even here", I doubt you have any idea what this employee went through. I am no longer employed at this site, but was there to witness the utter inconvenience it caused her. Not to mention still being expected to perform regular job duties and drive to cover the story with a totaled car. Not even an offer to pay her deductible or even a rental car for a week? C'mon! There should be "something" in place in cases like these. I agree with the other posters... everything falls back on the employee. It is really ashame.

  6. You get to own your own vehicle, pay insurance, maintenance, tires (snow tires). And the company pays you ___ per mile. Sounds like a great deal for the company.

  7. No, 10:52, the people here who are whining don't know what they are talking about. The posts about the mileage rate are another example. That difference in reimbursement can still be claimed.

    Bottom line: Most people here, on a daily basis, have no clue, especially about benefits and issues like this one.

  8. Got sent out of town once, vehicle broke down in the middle of nowhere on the way back. After midnight. Had a huge repair bill, and got no help on the towing either. They didn't care.

    After that hard lesson, I did everything I could to rent cars when I traveled that far again.

    First poster was right. Employees are liabilities.
    I feel sorry for everyone who is trapped working for this evil company, and can't get another (non-existent journalism) job in this pitiful economy.

  9. 12:07: You don;t know what you're talking about.
    The difference between the pittance in mileage that Gannett pays and what the IRS says you can claim can only be claimed if you have enough qualifying deductions, such as a mortgage deduction. If you rent, you can't use the difference. I know this, because it affected me negatively.

  10. "If you rent, you can't use the difference."

    Wrong. Renting has nothing to do with claiming a mileage deduction.

    If you don't know what you're talking about, then don't post.

  11. 12:28 is right about the mileage. 12:45 is wrong.

    Claiming the difference in mileage as a deduction is extremely difficult to work out. You can also not claim mileage through work and try to do it at tax time, but that, too, is not always the best way to go, as there are other factors that go into it rather than just "I drove x miles now pay me x dollars."

  12. And what I don't see mentioned here is why the car was totaled in first place. Driver's fault? The other druver's fault? Was someone issued a ticket? Should a company pay for damages to a car if that person received a ticket? If the other driver received the ticket, why didn't that driver's insurance cover damage and rental car?

  13. Interesting thing is that the company requires proof of insurance if you use your car for company business.

  14. 12:56 is wrong. Renting has nothing to do with the mileage deduction. If you have other deductions, then you can take the mileage deduction. Renting has nothing to do with it.

    Again, don't post if you don't know what you're talking about. It's that simple.

  15. "Claiming the difference in mileage as a deduction is extremely difficult to work out."

    That makes no sense. The company pays at X rate. The government pays at Y rate. After all, that's what you're complaining about. How can you know the exact difference one second and then claim it's too difficult in the next breath?

    This is a common tactic among non-adaptive journalists. They claim things are obvious, but they also claim they are difficult to figure out. By doing this, they try to avoid any sort of responsibility for their own fate. That's why this site provides them a great refuge.

  16. Yes, 1:13, people have to have car insurance and provide the proof. Name a business that doesn't require that.

    Some people here need to think a lot harder before they post stupid things.

  17. Wow. We're off.

    These discussions always fail here. People at this site just do not understand how benefits work. We saw this with health insurance and COBRA, when people tried to claim COBRA was no different from having no insurance. We saw this with retirement funds, when people had no idea how to transfer their money. And now we see it with mileage.

    Do any of you ever research anything, or do you just post your beliefs and hope they're right?

  18. The conversation should have nothing to do with how "benefits work." It should swing back around to what a crappy company Gannett is. Sure, they can require you to have your own car, insurance, etc., and pay you a pittance for using it. But a major international corporation shouldn't be doing that.

    If you're required to use your own car for business and pay for its upkeep, etc., the company should be paying the same mileage reimbursement rate as the IRS. Anything else is an insult to the employee. Period.

    You can bet Dumbow and Gracia aren't paying anything out of pocket to travel on company business.

    But that's the way this class warfare thing works. If you're immensely well off, you make damned sure that you never incur the slightest expense for the work that you do for a company. Then, in order to justify the massive bonuses you pull down every year, you force your employees to actually cover businesses expenses (i.e. cars, insurance, etc.). When people start to wise up and complain that you aren't doing your fair share, you start yammering on about how everyone hates the rich and how class warfare isn't right. Even though it's you who fired the first shot.

  19. Indeed, most companies, assuring that you have a decent driving record, will insure you as an employee and provide a company car for use that everyone pulls from in case of road trips, etc. The company I used to work for had three cars handy. Sure, it was sometimes a pain to rent them if they were all booked, but given that these day-long busines trips are usually booked months in advance, it was really a great thing, and I'm sure not really expensive for the company. We at least knew that they were available to us, and we had the option of taking our own cars for biz use if the trip was in town. Using personal cars for biz trips more than 30 minutes away was highly discouraged, even frowned upon. And the mileage reimbursement rate was around 55 cents/mile three years ago. At the paper I worked for at Gannett, it was around 30 cents at best. I believe it still is. Absolutely ridiculous.

  20. This doesn't surprise me in the least. Where I live and work, in a very rural area, you can't report or shoot for a newspaper without having a personal car. There's no mass transit except really lousy bus service, nor regular taxi service. All the other photographers I know buy cheap clunkers because they put so much mileage on them they're dead in a year or two. When my car died (of natural causes) and it took a few days to purchase a new one, I caught major flak from my editor.

  21. Who are the jackals who want to cast employees victimized by a ruthless, penny-pinching company as the bad guys? Brown-nosing, sniveling tools? Executive douchebags? C'mon. Stand and be counted among the great assholes of humanity!

  22. I cast the know-nothings here as know-nothings.

  23. While renting doesn't have EVERYTHING to do with whether you can claim the mileage difference, it's also wrong to say renting as "nothing" to do with it. Having a mortgage makes it much more likely that you'll be able to itemize and therefore claim the mileage as a deduction. I think your mileage also has to be a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income. Bottom line: Not everyone gets to take advantage of the mileage difference as a deduction. For example, I think it only saved me like $10 on my taxes last year. And don't pronounce I'm wrong unless you're going to say my CPA lied to me.

  24. I don't work for the company any more, but I distinctly remember having to sign a form about appropriate driving policies, including having to abide by all traffic laws, etc. The newsroom was in quite an uproar about it at the time.

    And I think the point about renting was this: If your company pays less than the IRS rate, you can deduct it from your taxes as an unreimbursed business expense. But if you have less than $8,500 in deductions if you are single, you will take the standard deduction in that amount anyway, so you won't get much relief. Unless you have a mortgage deduction, dependents, unreimbursed medical expenses, etc., you're probably going to be in the standard deduction.

  25. "I think your mileage also has to be a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income."

    You're wrong. That part has nothing to with what your CPA said, either.

    Again, if you don't know what you're talking about, then don't post.

  26. Most companies DON'T provide a company car for travel. Who is coming up with these gems?

    List of things Gannett Bloggeteers don't understand:

    (We could just say "everything about benefits." But that would be easy.)

    1. Car insurance/company travel.

    2. Health insurance/COBRA.

    3. Taxes/deductions.

    4. Retirement plans/401(k)s.

    5. Crowdsourcing.

    6. Confirming information/vetting sources. (Jim is the ringleader of this flaw.)

    There are some other general acting professionally/acting at least human things, too. But naming those would just lead to rants from the guilty.

  27. It's approaching that time and I'd like to email the GCI pension office to find out the "how and when." Anybody have that email address?

  28. 5:19 adds a chalk mark to No. 4 in the previous list.

  29. 5:12 -- Exactly what percentage of companies do provide company cars (or reimbursement for rental cars) for business travel? Since you seem to know everything and since you have proudly announced this fact, I'm sure that statistic is at your fingertips.

    While you're at it, I would also like to know what percentage of companies Gannett's size provide company cars.

    There are many companies, large and small, that do have company cars for business travel. These range from tiny businesses, like flower shops, to giant insurance agencies that often allow their adjusters to drive company cars for both business and personal use.

    It's true that some companies don't do this. But those who don't (and refuse to pay an adequate mileage reimbursement) are quite simply shifting one of the costs of doing business to their employees.

    Whether it's a standard business practice really has no place in this discussion. The bottom line is, it's a shitty practice continued by shitty companies, and that's why we're talking about it in this blog.

  30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  31. Not sure why that last post was deleted, but ...

    I know several people who work for small and big companies. None of them has use of a company car. When they travel, they use their own vehicle, unless they fly, and then car rental is a necessity.

    The flower shop example is not a good one to prove a point. Those businesses have to make deliveries, and the employees usually use the company car. The exception comes on busy days, when an employee might have to use his/her own vehicle.

    Many delivery employees, though, have to use their own vehicle, even if a truck or van is required.

    I'd add a snarky comment, as others have done here when they feel they have proved their point, but why bother.

    What the heck -- I do have to wonder how many people here engage with some of these real-world activities. How is this stuff a secret?

  32. Before the family-owned newspaper where I worked was bought out by Gannett many years ago, we had two company-owned cars assigned to the newsroom and the photographers had two company-owned cars for their use. Some reporters and photographers preferred to use their own vehicles, especially for short trips. But for trips of any length, we were encouraged to use the company vehicles -- and most of us gladly accepted.

    All that came to a screeching halt when Gannett purchased our paper. The company no longer provided vehicles, and we were constantly battling for a realistic rate for mileage payments for the use of our own cars.

    This is only one relatively small reason why I don't miss working for Gannett any longer.

  33. 11:59 expresses the common adage here: If we could somehow roll back time, everything would be great.

    Sorry, can't roll back time.

  34. 11:36 -- Are you saying that everyone who works at Gannett should be proud that they're employed by a multi-national corporation that operates like a Dominoes pizza franchise?

    I don't think anybody sees this behavior as a "secret." The fact that an employee-unfriendly business practice is widespread does not make it right.

    Perhaps I'd feel differently if the CEO and executives travelled in their personal jets and accepted mileage reimbursements that didn't even come close to covering their actual travel costs. But (even though they are the best equipped to eat such expenses) they wouldn't even consider that ... would they. It's easier to pass the cost of jet fuel onto employees who are making $30,000 a year.

  35. 12:45, 1:15 and 4:51 (the same person) is wrong, has been wrong and will continue to be wrong until the end of time.

    The end.

  36. Good try, 3:07. But again, owning a home or renting IN ITSELF neither eliminates nor allows the mileage deduction in most cases. And that was the original claim. Here it is for you again:

    "If you rent, you can't use the difference." Wrong.

    You can verify this yourself with a little research at the IRS Web site. Of course, I'm sure you and others would never post anything here without doing so.

    But just in case, here's some advice: If you don't know what you're talking about, then don't post. Many people here have no clue about benefits and how they work.

  37. I used to drive through blizzards and snowstorms to make it to work. Then one time during a snowstorm, my car wouldn't start and I had to call in to say I wouldn't make it that day.

    Next day, I was called into the big boss's office to be lectured about how I should be more reliable on getting to work. Nevermind that I averaged maybe one sick day in a year. Nevermind that there was a foot of snow outside and I'd be risking my life to drive in.

    I brought all that up to the boss, and he blew me off, and I even offered to show him my $300 bill for towing and repairs. Oh no, heaven forbid I proved the boss wrong.

    Now I'm glad my car died in my driveway that night and I didn't risk my life to drive into work for such an ungrateful Gannettoid.

  38. I wanna share your post on my facebook,u know,the link,I like your post! is that ok?


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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