We are living in a time where a worldwide pandemic has forced much of the workforce to convert living rooms and bedrooms into long-term home offices. Although working from home has some benefits, it has added a number of additional expenses that would not be present while working at the office. Our California employment law team explains how remote employees may be entitled to reimbursement for these new expenses.
Internet plans and additional cellphone data plans are some of the biggest expenses for anyone working from home. Though working from home can be a convenience, these bills can easily pile up and become a burden. For example, many employees have contacted us complaining that they had to upgrade to speedier internet to accommodate constant Zoom calls or multiple family members using videoconferencing at the same time.
Although there is no federal law requiring employers to reimburse their employees for business-related expenses, there are state laws that require “necessary” expenses to be reimbursed.
These laws have been interpreted to require employers to reimburse employees for part of their personal cell phone plans when they are required or encouraged to use their personal phones through work. This is because employers are not supposed to shift their “costs of doing business” onto employees. For the same reason, your employer has to reimburse you for mileage if you are driving for work and a company vehicle isn’t provided.
In the context of telecommuting and the work-from-home boom, the same rules and principles apply to new situations. If you’re required to work from home—for instance, because physical offices are closed or at reduced capacity—there’s a good argument that your internet is a “necessary” expense and you should be at least partially reimbursed for it. If you’re charged extra for increased data use on mobile networks because of working from home, your prior cell phone reimbursements might not be legally adequate. The same goes for basic office equipment that you need in order to work, or extra energy bills if you are required to do anything resource intensive.
Depending on your job responsibilities, your employer may be required to reimburse you for various other work-from-home expenses as well. The question to ask: is this required for me to work? Is my employer requiring or encouraging me to work from home? If the answer to both questions is yes, your employer may be required to reimburse you for it.
How King & Siegel LLP Can Help
This is just another way that employers take advantage of their employees. Our lawyers are well-versed in the laws governing reimbursements and have spoken on this issue to Refinery29 and NPR’s Marketplace. If you’re being denied fair reimbursements for your increased working expenses because of the pandemic or long-term shifts to work-from-home, you should contact our expert team of employee rights attorneys.
If you have been forced to pay new expenses as a result of working from home, contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 214-3757 to find out how we may be able to help you secure reimbursement.