Changing terms of a business trip.

I’m escorting a foreign VIP somewhat voluntarily from our sister company in China to CA next week. We are visiting a supplier and the VIP wants to stop at an amusement park while we are there. My employer offered to pay for everything up front, minus the plane ticket which I would be reimbursed for and food which I was responsible for. Park tickets and transportation in CA were to be cover by the business. However, after booking the flight, my employer changed the terms and informed me that I would be reimbursed after I return and only 50% of the expenses are covered. If that were the case from the beginning I would have declined, as I cannot afford it. Since the terms were changed after booking the flight, is there anything I can do? I can’t afford to go but I also can’t afford to not be reimbursed for the flight.

Asked on August 29, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

First, bear in mind that if you "declined" they could have terminated you: employers can require employees to go on trips and even to personally foot or bear expenses, on pain or threat of termination. The employee's recourse, if he or she does not want to do this, is to quit or resign. So your ability to seek redress for a change is limited.
The above said, that as to any expenses actually *incurred nonrefundably* before they changed their mind, they are obligated to pay/reimburse you for: they agreed to pay these things before you agreed to incur the costs. If not reimbursed for anything incurred and nonrefundable, you could sue them for the money, for "breach of contract" (violating the agreement under which you incurred those expenses)--though as you can imagine, suing your employer can have drastic career consequences.
Anything not yet incurred or which is refundable, you have a choice: either don't incur (or cancel and seek a refund), and accept any career impact (e.g. being terminated for not doing these things), or else spend the money and accept you will be spending it out of pocket, from your own funds.


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