Should I Be Reimbursed for My Travel Expenses?

Businessman in a vehicle on his phone

Prices of gas, food, and other expenses seem to be on the rise frequently. For employees who want to ensure they’re getting the most out of each paycheck, something they may need to consider is whether they are being properly reimbursed for work expenses. Many expenses may not be eligible for reimbursement, but one expense that many employees must consider is travel expenses.

California Labor Code Section 2802

California legislation specifically addresses employer reimbursement obligations in Labor Code Section 2802. In particular, California law says that expenses involving vehicles, including mileage or vehicle wear and tear, are reimbursable. The test of whether something is reimbursable is whether it was reasonably incurred on behalf of the employer. That means that, if you had to travel for work, your travel expenses are reimbursable. The law also says that you have to be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and costs if you bring a case in court to recover unreimbursed business expenses.

Advantages and Consequences of Seeking Reimbursement

The most significant advantage of seeking reimbursement is an employee’s money stays with them. This means that an employee is not spending their own money on expenses that the company should either have provided in the first place.

One consequence of seeking reimbursement is the time it takes to put together receipts and other report information. Additionally, using a vehicle or other tool will result in the overall wear and tear of that item, which an employer may say they can't reimburse. For example, if an employee’s vehicle gets a flat tire during a work trip, it will take time for that employee to get their vehicle fixed and there may be other expenses for their vehicle that the company may not reimburse. While the time spent repairing your vehicle while on company time may be compensable “hours worked” under California law, there is no question that the repairs themselves can and must be paid by the employer.

How to File a Reimbursement

To get reimbursed for business expenses, an employee must submit a request to their employer. It is important to keep track of all of their business expenses so that the employee can quickly provide documentation to their employer. Additionally, they need to submit their request promptly as some employers have deadlines for submitting expense reports. However, you cannot waive your right to reimbursement, no matter what your company policy says. If your employer says you can’t seek reimbursement for a business expense because you waited too long, you can still bring a claim for reimbursement. The only time limitation, in that case, is the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations on an Expense Reimbursement Claim?

If you file a claim in court or arbitration, you can go back as far as four years to recover business expenses that you personally incurred. If, however, you file your reimbursement claim with the California Labor Commissioner, you can only go back three years. Both of these statutes of limitations are measured from the day you file your claim. You look back three or four years from the filing date to recover all the business expenses you incurred over the period up until the date of filing.

Reimbursement Questions

You should check with your employer if you have any questions about business expenses or reimbursement. They will be able to provide you with specific information about their policies. If after getting answers to these questions and you feel like your employer is not properly paying for your reimbursement expenses, you need to contact the law team at Strauss & Strauss, APC. Our experienced employment attorneys only work for employees, never employers. See what solutions we can provide for your situation by scheduling a consultation. (805) 303-8115