employment law reimbursement cell phone expenses

Gone is the age when the use of personal cell phones was routinely banned in the workplace.  Today, many employees regularly use their personal cell phones in performing their work-related duties.  Most probably don’t realize that when they do, part of their cell phone costs may become reimbursable—even if they have plans with unlimited minutes.  This includes telephone calls, text messaging and email.  Many employers now require employees to install and use certain apps on their smartphones that enable the employer to more easily communicate with employees regarding work related matters, scheduling, and sometimes to enable the employer to track their whereabouts if an employee is working in the field.

Not only are many employees unaware that they are entitled to reimbursement, unfortunately,  so are many employers.

California Law

California’s Labor Code Section 2802(a) states that: 

An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.

An employer who fails to reimburse an employee for work expenses can be sued in court for reimbursement and may be required to pay the employee’s attorneys’ fees.

Am I entitled to reimbursement from my employer?

You may be asking, “Does an employer always have to reimburse an employee for the reasonable expense of the mandatory use of a personal cell phone?”  The answer is reimbursement is always required. It does not matter whether the cell phone bill is paid for by the employee, a third person, or at all.  Otherwise, the employer is receiving a windfall because it would be passing its operating expenses onto the employee.  To be in compliance with California’s Labor Code, the employer must pay some reasonable percentage of the employee’s cell phone bill, when they are required to use it for work-related duties. 

Other Work-Related Reimbursements


Other reimbursable expenses you may not have thought about may include home Internet.  If you need to maintain access to internet service at home for work-related purposes, the cost your internet service is also reimbursable under Labor Code Section 2802. 

Vehicle Expenses

If you must use your personal car and driving is a part of your work, you are entitled to mileage reimbursement.  If you travel further distances, your employer must reimburse you for airfare, car rental expenses, hotel expenses for overnight – stays and other expenses reasonably incurred, as long as they are necessary in the discharge and performance of your work.  The rental or purchase of special equipment may be a reimbursable expense as well. 

Contact Whitehead Employment Law for a FREE Consultation

Whitehead Employment Law is a premier firm with a wealth of legal talent dedicated to labor and employment law. We have settled and tried cases winning millions of dollars in awards for clients whose employers have failed to reimburse employees for work-related expenses.  Many of these types of situations are ideal for class action treatment. 

In addition to recovering unreimbursed expenses, our class actions allow us to also recover unpaid wages, unpaid overtime and other benefits of employment to which workers are lawfully entitled, in a single class action lawsuit.  Individuals who serve as representative plaintiffs in class actions are generally entitled to an enhanced compensation because of their contribution of time and effort, in addition to a share of the settlement proceeds.  If you believe you may have a lawful employment claim for unreimbursed expenses, let’s talk.

Contact us at Whitehead Employment Law today at 949-936-4001.  Consultations are free and confidential.