It’s Your Money: Is Your Employer Underpaying You By Not Reimbursing Your Work Expenses?


Many California employees incur expenses on behalf of their employers for which they are not reimbursed.  The state of California is protecting employees from having to shoulder their employers’ work-related expenses.  California Labor Code Section 2802 requires employers to reimburse employees for all necessary expenses or losses the employees incur as a direct result of the performance of his or her duties or following the employer’s directions.  A few examples of such recoverable expenses are:

  • Cellular phone service when the employee’s job results in the employee regularly using his or her phone for business-related tasks, such as calling clients;
  • Increased data usage primarily for work-related tasks as sending and receiving e-mail, and online research;
  • Gas, mileage, and tolls for business-related travel; or
  • Office supplies, such as stationery, and software, used primarily for the benefit of the employer’s business.

The employer is required to pay some reasonable percentage of the employee’s cell phone bills, even if the employee’s use of a cell phone for work does not require the employee to purchase a more expensive plan than the employee would otherwise use.  This is the case even when an employee has a plan providing for unlimited calls, texts, and data.

An employee may not waive the right to reimbursement. Under California law, any contract or agreement by which an employee claims to waive the right to reimbursement is void. In fact, a California employer who knows or has reason to know an employee has incurred work-related expenses must reimburse the employee, even if the employee does not request reimbursement.  In addition to recovering the value of unreimbursed expenses, the statue provides for 10% interest per year on the value of the expenses incurred. The statute also allows aggrieved employees to recover their prevailing attorneys’ fees and costs from the employer.

Recently, there has been a significant amount of litigation regarding employers’ alleged failure to reimburse employees for cell phone use. If you think you have not been properly reimbursed for your work expenses within the last 4 years, and if have questions about your rights or would like to discuss your potential claims and damages, please click on Contact Us link and complete the form and a member of our law firm will contact you.

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