Unpaid Work Expenses

Knowledgeable Employment Law Firm Representing Workers in Employment Disputes in Orange County and Los Angeles

California’s labor code and wage laws are intended to protect employees so that they are paid on time and in full in accordance with the hours they worked and expenses they accrued. However, employers in Los Angeles and throughout Orange County routinely drag their feet when it comes to reimbursing employees’ work-related expenses, and some even outright refuse to do so. Countless times, we’ve seen employers abuse the position of power they enjoy by depriving workers of their rights in hopes that workers don’t take legal action.

At the Hardin Law Group, we’re here to help. Attorney James Hardin is a Los Angeles employment attorney who aggressively advocates on behalf of workers—and only workers—in all types of employment disputes, including those involving unpaid work expenses. We have heard all the excuses employers use to justify withholding reimbursement and know how to effectively challenge employers’ unlawful actions. We handle cases throughout Los Angeles and Orange County.

Yes, under California Labor Code § 2802, California employers are required to reimburse an employee “for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.” In other words, your employer is legally bound to reimburse you for your work-related expenses.

What Work Expenses Are an Employer’s Responsibility?

California law doesn’t provide a list of reimbursable work expenses and instead uses broadly phrased wording to describe the type of expenses that employers must cover. Thus, over time, California courts were the ones to flesh out the details.

For example, the First Appellate District issued a 2023 opinion in a case involving an employee’s claim that his computer, internet access, and phone line should be paid for by his employer during the stay-at-home mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The court sided with the employer, finding that “the plain language of section 2802(a) flatly requires the employer to reimburse an employee for all expenses that are a ‘direct consequence of the discharge of [the employee’s] duties.’” In so holding, the First Appellate District rejected the employer’s argument that the Governor’s stay-at-home mandate constituted an intervening circumstance, excusing the employer’s refusal to reimburse.

Considering this opinion, as well as the existing legal framework, there is room to argue that any of the following may constitute reimbursable work-related expenses:

  • Internet costs;
  • Cell phones and service plans;
  • telephone lines;
  • Laptops, computers and necessary accessories;
  • Printers or scanners;
  • Business mileage;
  • Travel expenses;
  • Postage;
  • Conference fees; and
  • Delivery driving expenses.

Is My Employer Required to Reimburse Me for My Personal Cell Phone Bill?

Possibly. Many employers do not require employees to have a separate “work” phone but still expect workers to use their personal cell phones for business purposes. This may be taking a call from a supervisor or client over the weekend, speaking with co-workers while out of town for a conference, or just always keeping your phone on you so someone from the office can reach you. In these cases, your employer should reimburse you for a reasonable portion of your cell phone bill. This is even the case if you have a cell phone plan with unlimited minutes.

Speak with a Los Angeles Unpaid Work Expenses Lawyer to Learn More About Your Rights

If your employer is asking you to cover the cost of work-related expenses, you aren’t alone. And, while a few dollars here and there may not have much of an impact on your financial situation, over time, unpaid work expenses can add up to a lot of money. At the Hardin Law Group, we have a long history of working with individual workers as well as large groups of employees, helping them get reimbursed for expenses their employers should have paid for in the first place. We offer free consultation and will not accept payment from you unless we can connect you with compensation. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call our Los Angeles employment lawyer at 310-606-2122. You can also connect with our Orange County employment attorney by calling 949-337-4810. Calling is free, and we will not accept payment for our services unless we can recover compensation on your behalf. We also handle other wage and hour violations, as well as wrongful termination, harassment and discrimination claims.

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