Yes, under California Labor Code section 2802, if you were required to work from home and incurred necessary and reasonable expenses related to your home office, your employer may be obligated to reimburse you for those expenses. This includes costs associated with maintaining a home office, such as internet expenses, office supplies, and other relevant expenditures directly related to your job duties.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in remote work arrangements, and many employees incurred additional expenses as a result. In California, employers have a legal obligation to reimburse employees for reasonable and necessary business expenses, even if those expenses arise from remote work situations.
In a recent case, a court rejected the employer’s argument that the government stay-at-home order, and not the employer, caused employees to incur expenses. IBM directed its employees to work from home after Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order in March 2020, mandating that non-essential workers work from home. The plaintiff employee and his co-workers incurred expenses for such things as internet access, telephone service, a telephone headset, and a computer and accessories. IBM did not reimburse its employees for these expenses, despite knowing that its employees incurred them. (Before the pandemic, IBM provided its employees with office space and all the necessary tools to perform their job duties.) Under the plain wording of Labor Code section 2802, the employer’s obligation turns on whether the expenses were actually due to performance of the employee’s duties not on what caused the employees to incur the expenses.
This reimbursement obligation is part of an employer’s duty to indemnify employees for expenses reasonably incurred while performing their job duties. Some common business expenses that employers may be required to reimburse under section 2802 include:
- Mileage: If employees use their personal vehicles for work-related travel, employers may be required to reimburse them for mileage expenses at the applicable IRS reimbursement rate.
- Travel Expenses: This can include costs such as lodging, meals, and transportation incurred during business-related travel.
- Work-Related Use of Personal Devices: If employees use their personal smartphones, laptops, or other devices for work purposes, employers may be required to reimburse a reasonable portion of the associated costs.
- Uniforms and Work Attire: If specific uniforms or clothing are required for the job and the employer does not provide them, the employer may be required to reimburse employees for the cost of purchasing and maintaining such attire.
- Tools and Equipment: If employees are required to provide their own tools or equipment for the job, the employer may need to reimburse them for these expenses.
- Home Office Expenses: With the rise of remote work, employers may be required to reimburse employees for reasonable and necessary expenses associated with maintaining a home office, such as internet costs or office supplies.
- Training and Education: If employees are required to attend training or educational programs for work purposes, employers may be required to reimburse related expenses.
It’s important to communicate with your employer and provide documentation of the expenses you incurred. Keep records of receipts and any other relevant documentation that can support your reimbursement request. If your employer refuses to reimburse you for eligible expenses, you may want to consult with our knowledgeable and compassionate lawyers at Jay S. Rothman and Associates to explore your options and ensure that your rights are protected under California labor laws.