Which Workplace Expenses Can Be Reimbursed?

Male employee at his work desk

Being employed usually requires equipment, a uniform, tools, or other items to succeed in the position. While an employee may purchase some of this on their own so that they are more comfortable or feel better prepared to accomplish their work tasks, items or other actions (such as commuting to a customer) may be required by the employer and the employee is expected to pay for it. However, if the employer requires something, the employer should compensate the employee should the employee make the initial investment.

With that being said, it is critical for employees to know when they can, and can not, be reimbursed by their employer.

The Law

California’s Labor CodeĀ Section 2802 says, in part: “(a) 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.”

This law basically means that any California employee must be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses. If an employer fails to do this, an employee could takeĀ legal action.

Expenses That Can Be Reimbursed

Not all expenses necessary to succeed in a position are eligible for reimbursement. However, several expenses are eligible. Those include:

  • Travel expenses (including but not limited to reimbursement for mileage, gas, car rental, parking fees, transportation fees, tolls, hotel, and tips);
  • Conference fees (including but not limited to the registration fee, meal fees, and additional fees associated with the event);
  • Cell phone (if you are required to use a cell phone for your position and the device is used for work, even if you also use the cell phone for personal calls);
  • Work uniform (if it is not provided by the employer and a certain dress code must be adhered to);
  • Postage; and,
  • Any training or educational costs mandated by the employer.

While these expenses should be reimbursed, that does not mean that the employee is allowed to take advantage of their employer. For example, an employee who needs to travel by plane to a destination for work should not book a flight first class unless that is on par with the company’s status.

Expenses That Will Not Be Reimbursed

If an employee chooses to purchase something not mandated by their employer, such as a new lamp for their office (whether that be a home office or an office outside of the home), the employee can not expect to be reimbursed. Expenses may only be reimbursed if they are essential for the employee to complete their job.

Working From Home Expenses

Many assume that because they work from home, their employer will cover expenses such as the internet. However, reimbursement for home internet service is a bit tricky. Many employers think that home internet expenses need not be reimbursed because the internet is used for both personal and business use (such as an employee’s home TV streaming services). However, the portion of the home internet service that is attributable to any work performed from home must be reimbursed. The same is true for home phone service, cell phone service, heating, natural gas, and any other utilities that are used by the employee in the course of performing work from home.

If a certain device or other expense is needed to complete a job from home, and the employer does not provide this, then an employee could have a valid claim against their employer.

Are You Being Properly Reimbursed?

With more employees working from home than ever before, it’s critical to know what expenses can and can not be reimbursed. If you believe your employer has not properly reimbursed you, you have every right to take legal action.

The team at Strauss & Strauss, APC is here to help you fight your employment legal battle. We never represent employers — only employees. With more than $100 million recovered for our clients, we have the experience to take on your case no matter how big or small. Contact us today for a free consultation. (805) 303-8115

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