In a perfect world, all employees would have an expense account for designer shoes and access to a company car. In the real world, your employer doesn't care who made your shoes, and your employer may ask you to use your own vehicle for company business. Before you refuse to use your personal vehicle for company business, consider how your decision may affect you.
Types of Employees
Most employees fall into one of two categories. They either are "at will" employees or contracted employees. An employer can fire an "at will" employee for any reason or no reason with few exceptions. If the employer asks you to do something illegal or wants to fire you for some cause that is specifically prohibited by the law, such as race, sex or disability discrimination, you may have a case against the employer. Asking you to use your personal vehicle for company business is not normally protected, so you may be risking your job if you refuse to use your car for company business. Contract employees may have more protection. Whether the contract is an individual employment contract or part of a union agreement, the contract likely addresses who provides transportation and under what circumstances. Your employer cannot require you to breach the terms of the contract.
Insurance and Liability
While your personal insurance will likely cover limited use of your vehicle for business purposes, such as transporting clients to the airport, you may want to ask your insurance agent if you have sufficient coverage for more extensive business use, such as transporting expensive company property on a regular basis. The good news is you don't have to absorb the liability alone. The company is also responsible for accidents or traffic violations you may incur while on company business.
An employer has the right to expect you to take reasonable precautions against incurring any damages, traffic violations or illegal activity, such as driving without a license or texting while driving, and keeping your car insured and in good working condition. You should let your employer know if your car is unsafe to drive and promptly report any driving violations or accidents. You are also responsible for securing any company property you are transporting. Your employer expects you to lock the vehicle when you are away, or he may not allow you to leave company property in the car unattended.
While not legally required to do so, most employees can look forward to the reimbursement for any expenses incurred while using a personal vehicle for company business. You may be reimbursed a flat fee based on how many miles you drove, or the employer may ask you to submit receipts for gas, toll charges or parking fees. You may even negotiate with the employer to have your car insurance payments and regular maintenance paid by the company. If the company does not reimburse you for business-related vehicle expenses, you may be able to deduct the expenses on your personal tax return.
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