I am not in this situation but a friend of mine is. She works for a company as an outside sales executive. She obviously is exempt from overtime. When she took the job, she was told that her sales area would be in the city she lives while the corporate head quarters are located 2+ hours away. She was told that there may be a quarterly need to come down to corporate for corporate meetings. This has now changed within the last six months to monthly meetings. With traffic, her drive is usually 3 hours, one way, and she must be at the corporate office at 7:30 am. After putting in a full day, she has another 3-hour drive home.
Yeah, that’s pretty awful. Once a quarter is obnoxious but doable. Once a
month is giving me stress just thinking about it. I don’t care for driving either, though.
Unfortunately, there is no law (that I’m aware of) that requires companies to provide accommodations, even for things which are designated as overnight–except in California, which requires that all business expenses be reimbursed. I think you could make pretty good argument that having to be three hours away for a 7:30 am meeting would be a good business reason for a hotel room. They may feel otherwise. Or (and this is entirely possible), they just might not get it.
Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time I lived in Rochester, NY. I got contacted by a company for a job interview in Manhattan. I said, “What do I do about travel reimbursement?” and the recruiter said, “it’s not that far!” I said, “It’s a 6 hour drive.” She said, “Isn’t Rochester by Westchester?”
Sigh. No, it’s not. For what’s it worth, they flew me down and paid for the plane ticket, but they never reimbursed my taxi and didn’t hire me. They later went out of business. Karma.
Anyway, the recruiter truly had no clue–and if she had she probably wouldn’t have contacted me for a job interview. These people probably don’t quite get what they are asking your friend to do. So, my advice would be to be much more direct. Here’s what I would say:
“In order to make the 7:30 meeting, I need to come up the night before. It’s not practical to get up at 3:30 to come to the meeting. Is there a particular hotel that the company wants me to use, and how should I submit the expense?”
Note, she’s not asking, she’s telling. This is often much more effective than asking. But if her boss says no, then the next step is to say, “It’s not physically safe for me to get up at 3:30, drive for three hours, work a full day and drive three hours home. If I have a car accident, the company will be liable.” Now, technically, this liability is subject to a complicated set of state laws, and this isn’t 100 percent true, but the company should be liable because it’s a business trip and not a normal commute. So, this is definitely the next path to take.
If that fails, she should say, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make the trip up monthly without hotel reimbursement. Should I join in via video conference?”
If the boss still says no, she should escalate the issue. If that fails, then it’s time for her to decide if this is the hill she is willing to die on. If she’s a star performer, it’s probably safe for her to put down her foot and refuse. If she’s mediocre and can be easily replaced, doing this will likely result in the end of employment.
So, what I would do in this situation is pay for my own hotel room, because I could not physically do that kind of day and be a safe driver, and put all my effort into finding a new job where they don’t treat their employees poorly.