These last two years have been challenging on a variety of levels.  Hopefully, one silver lining has been an increased ability and allowance to work remotely from home.  Presently, employers are evaluating a return-to-work approach for employees who have been working remotely.  Some employees have already returned to the office, while others remain at home.  Some employers have elected to adopt a hybrid model where employees work certain days each week from home and others from the office.

Working Remote and Extra Expenses

Working remotely certainly has its benefits, such as being able to start work without getting “office ready,” not having to commute, and some studies have shown those who work from home exhibit increased productivity.  But these benefits do come at a cost, such as increased use of employee cell phones and Wi-Fi expenses.  Some employees have had to increase their cell phone plan or install a landline if their cell phone service is not as reliable as necessary for business purposes.  Others have had to increase their Wi-Fi service to accommodate heavier traffic.  Then there can also be the need for printers and scanners in some industries.   Still other employees have had to purchase office equipment to be able to work from home.  The question then becomes – Who is responsible for bearing these expenses?

California Labor Code Section 2802

California Labor Code Section 2802 governs employee business expense reimbursements.  Section 2802 states that employers are responsible for reimbursing employees for “all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties . . .”  Thus, the question typically boils down to whether the expenses are “reasonable and necessary.”  The expenses outlined in the previous paragraph (as well as potentially others) would likely be viewed as “necessary expenditures” when an employee is working remotely.

Many employers generally recognize their legal responsibility to reimburse employees for such expenses and have set up processes for employees to seek reimbursement.  Others, however, either have no updated their processes related to remote work or simply refuse to do so – taking the position the employee would have a cell phone or Wi-Fi regardless of if they are working from home.  That is a dangerous position for employers to take as it is highly like a Court would interpret Section 2802 to require reimbursement in such instances.

Employees who have incurred reasonable and necessary business expenses should promptly request reimbursement from their employers and provide the appropriate documentation substantiating the expenses.  Delaying reimbursement requests is almost never a good practice.  If an employer refuses to reimburse an employee for business expenses under Section 2802, an employee can elect to pursue a legal claim and seek not only reimbursement for the expenses incurred, but also interest and attorneys’ fees.  If your employer refuses to reimburse your requested business expenses incurred while working remotely, or in any other circumstance, you should consult with a California Employment Attorney who is experienced with wage and hour laws and especially Labor Code Section 2802.

The attorneys at Ares Law Group in Orange County have extensive experience in handling expense reimbursement claims on behalf of employees.  Ares Law Group, P.C. attorneys bring their collective of 40 years experiencing in employment law when representing employees.