Employees Required to Use Their Personal Cell Phones for Work Must Be Reimbursed By Employer
t is well-established under Labor Code § 2802 that employers must reimburse their employees for reasonable expenses their employees incur when they are required to use their personal cell phones for work. However, what if you have one of the following situations:
- The employee’s cell phone bill is paid for by a family member or friend;
- The employee uses his/her phone for work under a personal rather than separate work cell phone plan;
- The employee has an unlimited cell phone plan for which he/she does not incur an additional expense when the phone is used.
A recent California case, Cocharn v. Schwan’s Home Service Inc., addressed these issues and ruled that none of the three scenarios above excuses an employer from reimbursing their employees under Labor Code § 2802. Under § 2802, “[a]n 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[.]”
The Court considered the above three scenarios and it determined that under § 2802, it does not matter whether the phone bill is paid for by a third person (i.e. family member or friend); whether or not the employee purchased a separate cell phone plan to accommodate work-related cell phone usage; or whether the employee has unlimited usage under his/her cell phone plan. For an employer to be liable, an employee only has to show that he/she was required to use a personal cell phone to make work-related calls, and he/she was not reimbursed.
In calculating what an employee is due, an employer may consider “not only the actual expenses that the employee incurred, but also whether each of those expenses was ‘necessary,’ which in turn depends on the reasonableness of the employee’s choices.” In other words, courts will deal with each case separately in order to determine an employee’s damages once he/she has proven the employer is liable.
To read the Court’s decision, click here.
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