Travel and Business-Related Expense Policy: Volunteers and Staff
The California Lawyers Association greatly appreciates the service of its employees and many volunteers, and is able to reimburse reasonable, documented travel expenses incurred for California Lawyers Association business, pursuant to this policy. As to volunteers, we do have a limited travel budget, so if your employer or another source is able to cover the cost of your travel expenses while providing volunteer services to the California Lawyers Association, we strongly encourage you to look to these sources first for reimbursement as it will allow us to stretch our budget and devote additional resources to the important work of the California Lawyers Association.
I. Policy Statement
This policy document sets forth the standards and procedures used to identify and reimburse legitimate travel and business-related expenses incurred while conducting necessary, authorized business of the California Lawyers Association.
This policy covers all employees and volunteers of California Lawyers Association, including but not limited to, the California Lawyers Association Board, committee members, speakers, invited guests, other volunteers, and contractors, who incur or seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred while conducting California Lawyers Association business. Authorization from the Executive Director or his /her designee and the Section Chair, for Section-related travel, is required to make exceptions to these policies.
III. General Guidelines
A. This document addresses the most common scenarios and issues for travel and business-related expenses, but it is not necessarily exhaustive. For any scenario or issue not specifically addressed, the California Lawyers Association’s Executive Director or his /her designee will interpret and apply this policy and any other applicable California Lawyers Association policies. In addition to the specific policy guidelines described here, travel and other business-related expenses must be reasonable, as compared to other similar travelers’ expenses or other historical travel bench- marks. California Lawyers Association staff reserve the right to reduce or deny a request for reimbursement or payment for any expense that is deemed either not in compliance with policy or otherwise unreasonable.
B. Travelers should travel economically, taking into account both monetary and time costs.
C. Each traveler is responsible for his /her own expenses and should not pay, or seek reimbursement, for the expenses of other employees, volunteers or contractors. There will be no reimbursement for the expenses of a spouse, guest or pet who accompanies a traveler on California Lawyers Association business.
D. An individual is on “Travel Status” when, in the course of conducting business for the California Lawyers Association and he/she travels to a destination that is at least 30 miles away from his/her primary workplace, including transportation between home residence and workplace. Absent specified exceptions described in this policy, airfare, lodging and meal per diem expenses can only be incurred when an individual is on Travel Status. This includes when an individual has traveled at least 30 miles away from his/her primary workplace and arrives at the hotel prior to a CLA related meeting. Other travel-related expenses, and selected communication and miscellaneous expenses, may be allowable whether or not the 30-mile requirement for Travel Status has been met, as described herein.
E. Business-related travel for any out of state destination requires express prior written approval from the Executive Director or his /her designee. Requests for reimbursement should be made after the actual travel has occurred and include all out-of-pocket expenses, regardless of when tickets were purchased or transactions occurred.
F. Claims for payment or reimbursement must be truthful and accurate and include only allowable expenses. Intentional misrepresentation on a payment request or reimbursement claim shall be subject to those consequences permitted by law.
G. Volunteers may incur expenses for their own travel in accordance with this policy. Volunteers are not allowed to make other purchases or render or engage services for the California Lawyers Association. All purchases or services must be initiated by California Lawyers Association employees per the CLA Procurement Policy.
IV. Reporting Guidelines
A. Expense Report
- Policy Compliance: Expense reports are reviewed for accuracy, completeness and policy compliance by California Lawyers Association staff before they are sent to Gilbert Associates (CPA) for processing and payment. California Lawyers Association staff reserve the right to reduce or deny a request for reimbursement for any expense that is deemed either not in compliance with policy or otherwise unreasonable.
- Responsibilities: It is the responsibility of travelers to submit to their California Lawyers Association staff liaison a completed, legible Expense Report with supporting documentation for approval. Any additional explanation or justification memos required must be initialed by the traveler’s staff liaison, unless noted otherwise. It is the responsibility of approvers to assure that Expense Reports submitted for approval are complete and accurate, comply with this policy, and are timely forwarded to the California Lawyers Association official CPA.
- Expense Reporting: The Expense Report form (example: Appendix A) is used to reimburse individuals for out-of-pocket travel expenses while conducting business for the California Lawyers Association. Reimbursement will be made to the individual traveler and not to the firm. Independent contractors with allowances for travel expense reimbursements should follow the terms of their specific contracts.
- Travel Dates: Travelers can use the Expense Report for a maximum of two trips conducted within any seven consecutive calendar days. If a single trip goes over seven consecutive calendar days, a separate Expense Report is required.
- Expense Report Receipts: Receipts for expenses other than per diem meals should be attached to the Expense Report. Where receipts for ground and public transportation are not provided by the carrier, or contain no itemized trip detail, expenses are reimbursable if the amount claimed is deemed reasonable as compared to other similar travelers’ expenses. Reimbursement for any items claimed under “Other Claims” will not be approved without a supporting itemized receipt. Receipts for air, rail, lodging and car rental expenses must contain itemized pricing and reflect appropriate travel detail (e.g., departure/arrival times, travel dates and location, service class, upgrades, additional fees, etc.). Statement summaries and non-itemized credit card receipts are not acceptable substitutes for receipts but can serve as additional, supporting documentation for original receipts that naturally lack the required detail. If booking through third party vendors such as Travelocity, Orbitz, etc., and no receipt is provided by the vendor, the traveler should include booking confirmations with equivalent detail. Electronically issued receipts for online purchases are considered original issued receipts. To substantiate a claim for reimbursement, receipts for lodging and transportation must be in the name of the traveler.
- Deadlines: The deadline for submitting an Expense Report to the California Lawyers Association liaison is 30 calendar days from the end of the week the trip concludes. Late Expense Reports may not be paid. Incomplete, incorrect, or illegible reports may be returned to the requestor for correction or held for a second level review which may result in delay or non- reimbursement of a specific item.
- Signature: All Expense Reports must be signed by the traveler seeking reimbursement. Facsimile signatures, digital signatures and digital scans are acceptable, a typed “/s” is not. Approval signatures by California Lawyers Association liaisons must be original and not delegated via signature stamp.
- Revisions: All modifications to a handwritten Expense Report must be individually initialed by the person making the correction. Any revisions necessary to correct or add to a previously submitted Expense Report must be clearly labeled as “revised” at the top of the form.
- Credits: Previously paid credits issued for canceled air flights can be used to reduce the cost of other future airfare for California Lawyers Association business. However, gift-certificates, vouchers, coupons, points or other promotional “credits” should not be used to purchase or be used to increase traveler reimbursements.
- Gifts, tokens of appreciation and other non-travel-related or non-business-related expenses are not reimbursed under this policy.
- Travelers must use the current 2018 electronic Expense Report form to ensure policy compliance. Non-standard forms or forms from prior years will not be accepted.
B. Purchasing Card Reporting
- Purchasing Cards are not issued to volunteers.
V. Allowable Expenses
- Personal Automobile
- Travelers required to use a personal automobile to conduct California Lawyers Association business will be reimbursed for mileage at the Internal Revenue Service approved rate as follows:
- Reimbursable mileage is incurred when a traveler leaves the location of his/her workplace on California Lawyers Association business and returns to that same location.
- Reimbursable mileage is incurred when a traveler does not report to his/her primary workplace during the workday because of California Lawyers Association business.
- Reimbursable mileage is incurred while conducting California Lawyers Association business while on the way to or from home or the primary workplace. Reimbursement will be for that mileage in excess of normal commute round trip mileage between home and the primary workplace.
- Upon request from CLA staff, a printout from Google Maps or comparable source should be included with the Expense Report to substantiate mileage claimed. Travelers who elect to drive rather than fly to conduct California Lawyers Association business will not be reimbursed in excess of the cost of the most economical form of transportation.
- Upon request from CLA staff, travelers must attach to Expense Reports dated documentation from the Southwest Airlines site to substantiate comparable travel expense (lodging, airfare, rental car). If comparable documentation is missing, CLA staff reserves the right to adjust the requested amount that is not deemed reasonable as compared to other similar travelers’ expenses, or other historical travel benchmarks. Mileage in excess of what comparable airfare would have cost is not reimbursable. Exceptions may be permitted when travelers are required to drive in order to economically deliver materials that would otherwise be shipped at additional cost, or special medical accommodations are required. Fuel that is put into a private vehicle is not reimbursable and cannot be charged to a Pcard. The mileage rate is intended to reimburse fuel costs maintenance and other depreciation for private auto use.
- Damage to personal autos while being used on California Lawyers Association business is not covered.
2. Car Rental
- Rental cars may be used to conduct California Lawyers Association business when necessary and economically practical compared to other modes of transportation. All associated rental costs should be considered and compared to the equivalent taxi or other ground services available, including the taxes, surcharges, fuel expense, hotel parking and highway tolls. Approvers are responsible for verifying that modes of ground transportation used to attend offsite meetings are consistent for their group and that any deviations or special circumstances are noted.
- As a general rule, rental cars should be limited to economy models, including sub-compact and compact size. Exceptions may be permitted when travelers are required to drive a larger vehicle in order to economically deliver materials, to accommodate a physical limitation, or when multiple travelers are driving together and need the additional space for passengers, luggage and other meeting materials. Exceptions may also be permitted for a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to provide safe transportation during inclement weather.
- The California Lawyers Association carries insurance that covers travelers (both employees and volunteers) when renting a vehicle while on California Lawyers Association business. Thus, travelers should not elect to carry the additional collision and liability coverage offered by rental agencies when traveling on California Lawyers Association business. Any additional insurance elections will be deemed a personal expense and will not be reimbursed.
- Personal and business purposes should not be combined on a single rental car reservation. In the event of sequential business and personal travel, a car used for business purposes should be returned at the conclusion of business and a personal rental then initiated.
- Cars should be returned with a full tank of gas; pre-paid tank options should be incurred only when the employee is sure that he/she will exhaust close to a full tank of gas.
- Fuel costs incurred for rental cars while on California Lawyers Association business are reimbursable, and for staff may also be charged to a Pcard. Fuel should be charged to the same Pcard account that was used to reserve the automobile rental. Compliance with the rental car agency agreement is the responsibility of the traveler who signs the rental agreement. Please be aware of provisions in the rental agreement that prohibit any other person from driving the car.
- In the event of an accident, follow these steps:
- Attend to any medical issues.
- Report to appropriate law enforcement agencies immediately.
- Consult the rental contract and follow its instructions.
- Promptly submit an accident report to the Executive Director.
3. Air Travel
- Reimbursement for air travel will be limited to the cost of a refundable coach/ economy fare, subject to the further restrictions below, plus the cost of checking up to two pieces of luggage per traveler, if required. Lower cost non-refundable fares should be purchased if it is practical to do so. First Class, Business Class or Southwest Business Select fares are not permitted; if purchased, the difference between the economy and higher-class fare will be considered a personal expense and will not be reimbursed. The cost of airline memberships, preferential seating, pre-boarding or any other accommodation upgrade will be considered a personal expense and will not be reimbursed. Charges incurred from a change of flight schedule for personal convenience are not reimbursable but may be permitted for business purposes or other extenuating circumstances if the reason accompanies the Expense Report.
- Travelers who incur excessively high fares due to a personal choice to use an airline, or to use a non-standard route when a more reasonable route exists, will be reimbursed only for the portion of the fare equal to the comparable Southwest fare and/or the fare for the more reasonable route.
4. Rail Service
a) Coach rail service may be used when necessary and economically practical compared to air and/or ground transportation. Reimbursement will be made based on the most economical, reservable service class available. Preferential or other luxury upgrades are not reimbursable. Note that on Amtrak, all reservable seats are called “business class” and are permitted.
5. Shuttle/Taxi/Car Service/Rideshare Service
- Shuttles, taxis, car services and rideshare services required to conduct California Lawyers Association business are allowable expenses.
- Tipping is optional but should not exceed 20 percent except in the case of an extremely low fare value.
- Airport trips may be covered by a fixed flat fee, and the metered fare or flat fee fare can be selected by the traveler at the payment point, whichever is more economical. Reimbursements should be capped at the fixed flat rate plus gratuity if less than the metered fare.
- Travelers may also use rideshare options such as Uber and Lyft, as these services may be cheaper than traditional taxis. Any premium service offered (i.e. Uber Black or Uber SUV) will be considered a town car equivalent and subject to the limitations below. If tipping is included in the fare (typically), any additional tipping is not permitted. Insurance coverage limits and exclusions may differ from provider to provider.
- A higher-cost limousine, town car, or black-car service is not reimbursable unless a less- expensive service is unavailable.
- Travelers going to the same destination are encouraged to share ground transportation whenever it is practical to do so.
6. Transit, Tolls, Parking and Fines
- Public transit fares, bridge tolls and parking fees incurred by travelers on California Lawyers Association business are allowable expenses.
- Parking tickets and traffic fines incurred by travelers will not be reimbursed.
- When lodging away from home is required to conduct California Lawyers Association business, reimbursement for lodging expenses will be made for the actual cost of a standard single accommodation hotel room, up to the maximum authorized lodging rate (Appendix B) or the contracted group rate pre-negotiated by California Lawyers Association staff for specific group meetings.
- Individuals engaged as speakers for California Lawyers Association programs may be reimbursed for the actual cost of a standard single accommodation hotel room per their individual contract terms, if applicable.
- When the California Lawyers Association has not contracted for a block of hotel rooms for a group meeting or event, individual lodging accommodations can be reserved directly with a hotel or with AirBnB, VRBO, or similar type accommodation. When the California Lawyers Association has contracted for a block of hotel rooms for a group meeting or event, attendees of that meeting or event must stay at the contracted hotel to ensure that California Lawyers Association meets its contracted minimum number of rooms and does not incur fees for unused rooms. Travelers who choose, as a matter of personal preference, to stay at a different hotel or AirBnB, VRBO, or the like, will not be reimbursed for lodging costs, and will be required to make their own reservations without the assistance of staff unless they have received confirmation from the Executive Director, or his or her designee, that the room block is full.
- Lodging must be provided by a commercial establishment in the travel accommodation industry (e.g., hotel, motel, and executive leased apartments). No reimbursement will be made for stays at personal residences, home-sharing services, or other barter or in-kind arrangements.
- Lodging expenses in excess of the current authorized lodging rates will not be reimbursed unless a prior contracted group rate has been negotiated with the hotel, or unless expressly authorized for some other business purpose. Staff will make every effort to contract group rates within the lodging per diem in appendix B when possible. Contracted group rates for Executive Committee Meetings should never exceed $300 per night (exclusive of all taxes and resort fees).
- The California Lawyers Association covers the cost of the hotel room and necessary business- related telephone calls, parking, non-premium internet charges and business center expenses. These expenses should be itemized on the Expense Report and not included with the lodging rate. Travelers should use their own wireless devices wherever feasible if more economical than using the hotels’ services. Travelers are responsible for covering their personal incidental expenses including personal telephone calls, room service and other in-room self-service items. All hotel guests are asked to provide a personal credit card at the time of check in to cover the cost of personal incidentals. See section V.D., Communications & Incidentals.
- Any charges resulting from failure to cancel lodging reservations are not the responsibility of the California Lawyers Association unless the reason for failure to cancel in time is related to California Lawyers Association business or due to an unavoidable personal emergency.
- For individuals not on Travel Status, lodging may be reimbursed only if there is a specific business need for the hotel stay, such as staffing an offsite meeting at the hotel.
- Per Diem Reimbursed Meals for Individuals
- Per diem meal costs will be reimbursed at the authorized per diem meal rate (Appendix B).
- Per diem meal costs will be reimbursed based on the following travel status guidelines:
- Breakfast: Traveling before 8:00 a.m.
- Lunch: Traveling at 12:00 p.m.
- Dinner: Traveling after 6:00 p.m.
- The meal per diem may not be claimed when a meal is otherwise provided (e.g. a California Lawyers Association catered lunch, conference meals, etc.).
- Tips for restaurant service are considered to be part of the per diem rate and are not reimbursable beyond the per diem rate.
- For individuals not on Travel Status, meal costs may be reimbursed at the authorized per diem meal rate if the meal was work-related and in conditions beyond the individual’s control, such as required attendance at an offsite meeting.
- Catered Meals
- Refreshments and/or meals may be catered at California Lawyers Association expense at California Lawyers Association meetings and events. Individuals (including members of the Board, committee members, and California Lawyers Association employees) attending such activities as part of their duties are entitled to partake of the catered meal, regardless of whether they are on Travel Status.
- Catering for offsite meetings and events is addressed in Section VII below.
- Offsite Dinners:
- Food and beverage minimums within a hotel contract must be met before arranging offsite dinners at restaurants. An exception may be requested and must be approved in advance by the Director of Operations or the Executive Director.
- The cost per person for an offsite Executive Committee dinner should not exceed $100 (exclusive of tax and gratuity).
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Alcoholic beverages and corkage fees are not reimbursable expenses.
D. Communications, Miscellaneous Expenses & Incidentals
- Reimbursement is provided for reasonable expenses incurred in making business-related telephone calls and limited calls to the individual’s home resulting from the requirements of business; and for expenses such as offsite photocopying, faxing or hotel business center charges. These expenses are reimbursable whether or not Travel Status requirements are met.
- Any additional roaming services needed to accommodate California Lawyers Association communications while an employee is not on Travel Status (e.g., office communications while on vacation) must be approved in advance of travel.
- Incidental expenses for such items as gratuities for luggage assistance, valet service or maid service are allowable expenses at a maximum incidental rate of $8.00 (per day to cover the cost of gratuities and other minor expenses incurred while on Travel Status.
VI. Expense Advances
A. Volunteers and contractors are not eligible for travel advances.
VII. Meetings, Events, Products And Services
A. Contracts for offsite meeting and event venues, and all products and services must be initiated by the California Lawyers Association staff. Volunteers are not authorized to contractually obligate California Lawyers Association. See CLA Procurement Policy.
Authorized Travel and Meal Reimbursements
(Effective January 1, 2019)
Effective January 1, 2021 the personal auto mileage reimbursement rate is 56¢ per mile driven. The mileage reimbursement rate will be adjusted to mirror the reimbursement rate established by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for business-related reimbursement. These rates are imbedded in the formulas of the online Expense Report and will be adjusted on the effective date of any rate change.
Lodging Reimbursement (excluding all taxes)
These rates are for individual travel when the Section does not have a contracted group rate with a hotel. The lodging reimbursement rate will be adjusted to mirror the reimbursement rate established by the California Lawyers Association.
San Francisco -$265
Metropolitan Areas –$250
All other locations – $175
Individual Travel Meal Reimbursement
These rate limits do not apply where the Section have contracted meals with a hotel or other venue for a specific event (e.g., conference or executive committee meeting).
Exceptions to the lodging and meal reimbursements may be made on a case by case basis if approved by both the Executive Director or his /her designee and the Section Chair, for Section-related travel.