Employer Reimbursement of Work-Related Expenses During COVID-19

California Labor Code section 2802 requires an employer 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, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.”  


In Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, the California Court of Appeal held that an employee has a claim for violation of this code section when he or she can show work-related cell phone usage and non-reimbursement for cell phone bills, regardless of whether or not the employee had an actual loss.  In other words, the court found that it does not matter if an employee has an unlimited minutes plan, uses a family member’s phone, or otherwise does not have to pay extra out of pocket because of their work-related cell phone usage.  The employer is required to reimburse the employee for their cell phone bill regardless, where any amount of work-related use is undertaken.  This ruling is important because it widely expands the field for expense reimbursement claims in California.


As you probably know, due to the Coronavirus pandemic and ensuring workplace closures, most non-essential employers (i.e., those other than hospitals, grocery stores, hospitals, etc.) are now requiring employees to work from home.  This is done via Zoom video calls, calls with co-workers and clients on cell phones, and so forth.  You should be aware that, per Labor Code Section 2802 and the Cochran case, all related bills to work from home arrangements are now required to be reimbursed by the employer.  These include, but are not limited to:


  • Cell phones
  • Landlines
  • Home internet
  • Streaming service charges
  • Supplies (paper, ink cartridges, pens, etc.)


If you are working from home and are not being reimbursed for any aspect of that work, your employer is likely violating California law and there is opportunity for a lawsuit.  If you fill out the contact box below explaining the situation, I will get back to you and we will work on getting you reimbursed for these expenses – either through a case or a demand letter.  


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