The last few years have been nothing short of revolutionary in terms of the abrupt shift from working in an office to working from home. Many California residents continue to work from home and will likely continue to do so permanently.
Working from home has introduced numerous challenges for both employers and employees, one of which is what type of expenses you can be reimbursed for when working from home.
The expense must be necessary and part of your job duties
If you have requested reimbursement for work-related expenses and been denied by your employer, you will need to show that the expenses were necessary and part of your job duties, your employer knew about them and did not reimburse you.
California law states that employers must reimburse employees for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee when working. Necessary expenditures or losses are defined as “all reasonable costs.”
Back when you worked in the office, this law was relatively easy to interpret. If you traveled for work, your mileage and meals would be reimbursed as necessary expenses.
What is necessary when working from home?
The law becomes vague when applying it to a work-from-home situation. Your employer might require you to use specific software or have a high-quality computer that allows you to do things like videoconference.
Are they required to reimburse you for the cost of upgrading your computer or purchasing software? Perhaps. You may also now need certain equipment, such as a printer or scanner, in your home that you didn’t need before.
What about the increased cost of your electric bill from using your computer more often at home during the day? Maybe, although it might be more of an uphill battle, unless the difference in cost is significant.
Perform a thorough examination of your job duties and responsibilities at home. There may be several things that qualify for reimbursement that you may not have initially thought of, such as electricity.
What is part of your job duties at home?
Your expenses must also have been incurred as part of your job duties. When you were going to the office, your commute to and from the office were not considered part of your job duties, and reimbursement was not required.
Your employer must know about the expense
In addition, your employer must know or have reason to know about the expenses. If the expense comes from your employer asking you to do or purchase something, such as a work cell phone, it is assumed that your employer knows about the expenses.
However, you must prove that your employer had knowledge. Therefore, save receipts or other documentation of all your work-related expenses.
Your employer may try to claim that they were not aware of the expense if it is something they did not specifically ask you to do. Be sure to tell them about any expenses in writing, such as via email, as proof.
Establishing your claim
Proving all of these elements can be complicated, and employers may be less likely to grant your request if you are working from home. Having the help of an experienced employment attorney can help you with proving your claim.