The legal nuances of cell phone reimbursement claims

Have you been working remotely during the pandemic? Do you use your mobile phone for work-related communications? Then your California-based employer should reimburse any expenses incurred just as they would reimburse you for other work expenses.

This is true even if you use a personally-owned phone and phone plan, not a company line. This is because you are using up your phone’s battery life, call minutes, and data, especially in places where wifi connectivity is not available.

Does the law require companies to reimburse employees for mobile phone usage?

Yes, if you use your personal mobile for work-related communications, you are entitled to reimbursements under California law. Although the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t mandate companies to reimburse employees for phone usage, the state of California law does mandate it under California Labor Code Section 2802.

Moreover, the FLSA stipulates that a worker’s earnings can’t dip below the minimum wage, which means that employers must reimburse any work-related expenses, including phone use, if the worker’s wage drops below minimum after they pay for their work-related expenses.

Will my employer pay my entire phone bill for the month?

Not necessarily. The California Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that a California-based employer should only pay a “reasonable percentage” of their employee’s phone bill. The trial court will determine the amount to be reimbursed on a case-by-case basis due to the vast differences in phone plans and work requirements.

California-based companies should also reimburse employees for other expenses incurred while working, such as:

  • Office supplies and equipment
  • Uniforms
  • Internet services
  • Transportation (i.e. parking, mileage, plane fare)
  • Hotel rooms and other travel-related expenses

California Labor Code Section 2802 also provides that employers reimburse employees for expenditures or losses incurred while performing their work duties from home, which has become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Work from home policies in California should take these expenses into consideration when compensating remote employees.

Get representation from a class action attorney in San Diego, CA

If you believe that your employer should reimburse your work-related expenses, Hogue & Belong is here to protect your rights as an employee.

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