B-200022, AUG 3, 1981

B-200022: Aug 3, 1981

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DIGEST: EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF EXCESS COST OF COMMUTING BY TAXICAB. COST OF TRANSPORTATION TO PLACE OF DUTY IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF EMPLOYEE. THE VOUCHERS WERE SUBMITTED BY EMPLOYEES WHO NORMALLY WOULD HAVE COMMUTED TO AND FROM WORK VIA THE NEW YORK CITY BUS AND SUBWAY SYSTEM WHICH WAS NOT OPERATING DURING THE DATES IN QUESTION BECAUSE OF A UNION STRIKE. IS THAT AN EMPLOYEE MUST BEAR THE COST OF TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN HIS RESIDENCE AND HIS PLACE OF DUTY AT HIS OFFICIAL STATION. WE HELD THAT EMPLOYEES OF THE URBAN MASS TRANSPORTATION ADMINISTRATION WERE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE EXCESS COST OF COMMUTING BY PRIVATELY-OWNED VEHICLE.

B-200022, AUG 3, 1981

DIGEST: EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF EXCESS COST OF COMMUTING BY TAXICAB, PRIVATE CAR OR OTHER ALTERNATE MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION OVER NORMAL PUBLIC TRANSIT FARES, DESPITE COMPLETE PUBLIC TRANSIT SHUTDOWN DURING APRIL 1980 STRIKE. COST OF TRANSPORTATION TO PLACE OF DUTY IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF EMPLOYEE, ABSENT STATUTORY OR REGULATORY AUTHORITY TO THE CONTRARY. 60 COMP.GEN. (B-200323, APRIL 30, 1981).

BERNICE L. FRASER ET AL. - REIMBURSEMENT OF EXCESS COMMUTATION COSTS DURING NEW YORK TRANSIT STRIKE:

MR. S. RONALD LUISO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF ACCOUNTING, FISCAL AND BUDGETING SERVICES, REGION II, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, HAS REQUESTED A DECISION AS TO WHETHER VARIOUS TRAVEL VOUCHERS REPRESENTING EXPENSES INCURRED BY EMPLOYEES WHILE COMMUTING TO AND FROM WORK DURING THE NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT STRIKE FROM APRIL 1 TO APRIL 11, 1980, MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT. THE VOUCHERS MAY NOT BE PAID FOR THE REASONS WHICH FOLLOW.

THE VOUCHERS WERE SUBMITTED BY EMPLOYEES WHO NORMALLY WOULD HAVE COMMUTED TO AND FROM WORK VIA THE NEW YORK CITY BUS AND SUBWAY SYSTEM WHICH WAS NOT OPERATING DURING THE DATES IN QUESTION BECAUSE OF A UNION STRIKE. THE VOUCHERS REPRESENTED THE COST INCURRED BY EMPLOYEES FOR MORE COSTLY ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION INCLUDING TAXI, EXPRESS BUS, RAILROAD TRAINS, AUTOMOBILE RENTAL AND FARES CHARGED BY PRIVATE DRIVERS.

THE ESTABLISHED RULE, AS STATED IN NUMEROUS DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE, IS THAT AN EMPLOYEE MUST BEAR THE COST OF TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN HIS RESIDENCE AND HIS PLACE OF DUTY AT HIS OFFICIAL STATION, ABSENT STATUTORY OR REGULATORY AUTHORITY TO THE CONTRARY. SEE, FOR EXAMPLE, 58 COMP.GEN. 188, 190 (1978); 55 COMP.GEN. 1323, 1327 (1976); RICHARD F. BOLLINGER AND ADAM E. MUCKENFUSS, B-189061, MARCH 15, 1978.

OUR OFFICE HAS VERY RECENTLY DECIDED A SIMILAR CASE INVOLVING THE APRIL 1980 NEW YORK TRANSIT STRIKE. IN THAT DECISION, REIMBURSEMENT OF EXCESS COMMUTATION COSTS DURING NEW YORK TRANSIT STRIKE, 60 COMP.GEN. (B-200323, APRIL 30, 1981), WE HELD THAT EMPLOYEES OF THE URBAN MASS TRANSPORTATION ADMINISTRATION WERE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE EXCESS COST OF COMMUTING BY PRIVATELY-OWNED VEHICLE, OR FOR FEES ASSOCIATED WITH A RENTAL VEHICLE OVER NORMAL PUBLIC TRANSIT FARES, DESPITE THE COMPLETE PUBLIC TRANSIT SHUTDOWN DURING THE APRIL 1980 STRIKE. THE DECISION NOTED THAT THE COST OF TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN AN EMPLOYEE'S RESIDENCE AND OFFICIAL DUTY LOCATION IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE EMPLOYEE AND THAT THE UNAVAILABILITY OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ALONE DOES NOT SHIFT THIS PERSONAL OBLIGATION TO THE GOVERNMENT. THAT DECISION CONCLUDED AS FOLLOWS:

"IN SUM, THE UNAVAILABILITY OF ANY PARTICULAR MODE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, EVEN FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME, DOES NOT ENTITLE A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE TO REIMBURSEMENT OF EXCESS COMMUTING COSTS RESULTING FROM USE OF AN ALTERNATIVE, MORE EXPENSIVE MODE. INSOFAR AS STRIKES BY PUBLIC TRANSIT EMPLOYEES ARE LIKELY TO OCCUR WITH INCREASING FREQUENCY, FEDERAL EMPLOYEES SHOULD BE PREPARED TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINDING AS WELL AS PAYING FOR ALTERNATE MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION. AT THE SAME TIME FEDERAL OFFICES IN METROPOLITAN AREAS SHOULD BE FLEXIBLE IN PLANNING FOR TRANSIT EMERGENCIES."

THE PRESENT REQUEST FROM HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY FACTS WHICH WOULD DISTINGUISH THE CASE AT HAND FROM THE CITED DECISION. WE ARE FULLY COGNIZANT THAT THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE TRANPORTATION WAS NECESSITATED BY THE TRANSIT STRIKE AND THAT THE EMPLOYEES APPEAR TO HAVE ACTED PRUDENTLY. HOWEVER, THERE IS NO LEGAL AUTHORITY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE APPROVAL OF THE TRAVEL EXPENSES INCURRED BY THEM, NOR ARE WE AWARE OF ANY STATUTE OR REGULATION WHICH AUTHORIZES REIMBURSEMENT.

ACCORDINGLY, THE CLAIMS SUBMITTED FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES INCURRED BY THE EMPLOYEES FOR ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN THEIR RESIDENCES AND OFFICIAL DUTY STATIONS MAY NOT BE ALLOWED. THE VOUCHERS MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.