Tally business expenses incurred over three years (many employees have been working remotely since March 2020) and taking into consideration both hard (fixed) and soft (variable) costs, both you and your employer may be surprised—cha ching! Expenses such as internet and mobile phone bills, automobile mileage, electric bills and the cost of your home office can add up.
Work supplies can also add up, from paper and pens to postage. “Employers should be providing a reasonable reimbursement for these necessary business expenses. Companies should have policies and procedures for employees to request reimbursement of business expenses, and provide a reasonable remote work reimbursement,” states the California Employees Association.
Remote Work Expenses Lawsuits Filed
Last month plaintiff Engelie Torres filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Fox Broadcasting Co. LLC alleging failure to reimburse for business expenses and Unfair Competition Law violations. Torres, a Senior Financial Analyst at Fox, claims that between March 2020 and present, Fox employees incurred home office expenses required for performing work-related duties, including internet and electricity, according to the complaint. Employees were also expected to use their own cell phones for work-related duties. Bloomberg Law reported that, although shelter-in-place and work-from-home orders were in place in California, Fox maintained a policy of not reimbursing for those expenses, which ranged between $50 and $100 per month for each employee.
The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of approximately 1,000 employees who worked from home when offices were closed for at least one pay period since March 2020.
The case is Torres v. Fox Broadcasting Co. LLC, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 22STCV06823, 2/24/22.
In January 2021 a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) filed in the Superior Court of Merced claims that Foster Farms failed to provide and reimburse employees for the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE). According to the complaint, employees were forced to purchase PPE such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer without reimbursement. The employees argue that California case law requires employers to provide their employees with PPE, at the employer’s expense, and employees must be reimbursed for any such materials that the employees purchase if the employer fails to do so.
Also in 2021 a class action lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court by an employee at Anyone Home Inc, claiming the company failed to provide reimbursement for her and other similarly situated employees’ home internet, home telephone, personal cell phone, personal computer, utility costs, office furniture, and insurance from July 2019. JD Supra reports that, in December 2020, Anyone Home sent the employee $225 as reimbursement for past business expenses and provided that they would begin paying her a recurring stipend of $25 per month.
California Labor Code Section 2802
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Attorney Mark Spring wrote for Bloomberg Law: “California has some very unique laws related to the reimbursement of work-related expenses for remote works. With the plethora of class action lawsuits and Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) actions in California, it is important that remote workers in the Golden State be properly reimbursed for their remote work expenses… Employers need to know how to properly reimburse remote workers in the Golden State for their remote work expenses, or else they could face class action lawsuits and Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) actions.”