California law generally prohibits employers from requiring employees to bear the costs of business expenses. These costs can include cell phone expenses, client entertainment, and some uniforms. California Labor Code § 2802 states that employers must reimburse employees for “necessary expenditures and losses incurred as a direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.”
When an employer violates this law, an employee is entitled to collect interest on the expenses made as well as recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred in bringing a lawsuit. The only case in which an employer is not required to reimburse expenses when the employee believed the expenses were unlawful at the time. Nevertheless, even if the expenses were actually unlawful, the employee would still be able to claim expenses if they were unaware of that fact.
Under California Labor Code § 2804, an agreement to waive full reimbursement for expenses is not enforceable even if an employer requires the agreement as a term of employment. Similarly, an employer’s deadlines for requiring an employee to submit reimbursement are not enforceable. Employees are legally entitled to reimbursement for up to 4 months after the date of the expense.
Common Examples of Reimbursement Violations
One common violation of this rule involves uniforms. A dress code is not a violation of this rule, but requiring the purchase of dress code items directly through the employer is basically the same thing as a mandatory pay deduction.
Travel is another common way in which employers violate the expense reimbursement rule. When an employer requires an employee to run errands, the employer must pay for the employee’s time. If the employee uses his or her own vehicle to run the errands, the employer must also pay mileage costs. Current IRS guidelines dictate that employers should pay 55 cents per mile in these circumstances. Time spent driving should also be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
What if An Employer Violates The Reimbursement Rules?
Some employers have internal rules governing how to request reimbursement if a request was initially denied. However, employees are not required to comply with an employer’s formal rules. In the case of Stuart v. RadioShack the court held that the employer, not the employee, has a duty to investigate if they have reason to believe that an employee incurred expenses on their behalf. Employees may bring a lawsuit to enforce their right to reimbursement regardless of whether they followed the employer’s official rules governing reimbursement.
If your employer has failed reimburse you or pay your wages, you may be entitled to a lawsuit. To learn more, contact experienced employment law attorney Michelle Baker. Schedule your free consultation by calling (858) 452-0093 today.