Should my employer cover my cell phone bill while I’m working from home?

The current public health crisis has led millions of employees to work from home. If you are among these workers, you may be racking up work-related charges on personal devices. Your bills may have increased if you’ve modified your internet and phone plans to accommodate extra use or bandwidth. And you may wonder if your company can reimburse you for these expenses. By understanding how Section 2802 of the California Labor Code works, you may find that these expenses qualify for compensation.

Understanding Section 2802

Section 2802 decrees that employers must compensate employees for all reasonable expenses they incur while on the job. The meaning of reasonable expenses may seem ambiguous. But the state’s Court of Appeals has argued it extends to personal cell-phone use. In a 2014 case, it ruled in favor of an employee pursuing reimbursement for work-related charges incurred on their personal cellphone. The plaintiff’s employer required them to use their personal cellphone for business matters. Thus, reimbursement qualified as reasonable. Yet, a 2016 case ended with a different decision, since the defendant company did not force the plaintiff to use their personal cellphone on the job. The Court of Appeals nonetheless upheld the 2014 argument in their decision. And they stated that the exception in this case stemmed from the plaintiff’s lack of need to use a cellphone for work purposes in respect to their role.

Working toward reimbursement

These differing legal decisions may confuse you. Yet, you may be able to pursue reimbursement for your phone and internet charges given current circumstances. So long as you use them for work purposes, your employer may have to indemnify you from covering these expenses on your own. If you need to use the phone and internet to perform your job and cannot access your office equipment, your use could qualify as reasonable. This precise argument has not received hearing in a California court of law, since it is more generous in scope than either ruling. Furthermore, it deals with a specific and exceptional situation.

Section 2802 may provide more questions than answers about what work expenses qualify for reimbursement. Yet, it’s possible that those you incur while working from home meet its threshold. An employment law attorney can help you navigate the state code’s complexities.