Employers may be required to pay for employees’ necessary business expenses
7 months into the pandemic, the COVID-19 health crisis shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Instead, cases are surging across the United States, including here in California.
To keep employees safe, many companies switched to remote work (when possible) when the shutdown first started in March. For many employees, this shift to working from home was abrupt and required them to buy supplies and equipment to be able to work at their homes instead of at the office. This raises an important question: who is responsible for expenses related to remote work?
As a California employment law attorney can explain, there isn’t a clear answer as to who is required to pay for various expenses. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to reimburse workers for their remote work expenses, unless the expenses are so high that employees are effectively paid less than the minimum wage. In other words, if you have to spend so much money to be able to work from home that you are earning less than minimum wage, you may have a claim under the FLSA.
In California, the labor code requires employers to reimburse employees for any necessary business expenses that they incur. Under this statute, employers must reimburse employees for all expenditures that they made that wee necessary to perform their job duties. This law does not specify which business expenses are covered. However, in 2014, a California court issued a decision that required an employer to reimburse employees for their cell phone fees if the employee is required to use their personal phone for business purposes. Under this ruling, the reimbursement should be for a reasonable percentage of the employee’s total monthly bill.
To date, the California Labor Commissioner, the state legislature, and the courts have not provided guidance on which expenses an employer must cover for employees who engage in remote work. However, based on the California Labor Code and the decision discussed above, employees may seek reimbursement for:
- The use of a personal phone and other devices
- Use of home internet for work (a percentage attributed to work)
- Use of personal office supplies
- Increased utility bills related to work
In addition, if an employer does not provide company-owned equipment (such as a laptop, printer, or phone), then the employee may request reimbursement for those items. In essence, if you are spending your money or using your resources in order to do work for your employer, you should be able to get paid for your expenses.
Importantly, if your employer fails to reimburse you for these and other expenses related to remote work, they may be in violation of California law. A California employment law attorney can work with you to determine if you may be able to file a claim against your company to seek reimbursement for you remote work costs.
At PLBSH, we represent employees who are have suffered injustice at work, from discrimination and harassment to workers’ compensation to wage and hour violations. Every day, we put our experience and knowledge of California labor and employment law to work for our clients. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a member of our team, reach out today at (800) 435-7542 or email@example.com.