Reimbursement for Work Expenses

Often employees are required to use specific instruments, tools, or clothing in the performance of their jobs. While many employers provide the tools necessary to perform the work, it is often the case that the tools must be purchased for the position. In these situations, the employer may provide funds in order that the employee may purchase the tools on his or her own. However, if the employee is expected to purchase the tools using his or her own money, then the employer has violated the Labor Code.

California Labor Code §2802: "An 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, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful." Cal. Lab. C. §2802(a).

There are two key elements to this statute. First, the employee shall be reimbursed only for "necessary expenditures." These shall include "all reasonable costs, including, but not limited to, attorney's fees incurred by the employee enforcing the rights granted by this section. Cal. Lab. C. §2802(c). For instance, if an employee is required have a power drill, and the employee buys a set of power equipment that comes with other tools beside the drill, then the accompanying tools might not be reimbursed by a court. However, the employee would still be entitled to reimbursement for the drill, because the job required use of a drill and the employer did not provide one.

Secondly, the expenditures must be in "direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties." A common example of a work expense in today's work environment is a phone bill. Some workers may be required to bring a cellular phone with them as they work in order to contact the business, clients, or other people associated with the performance of their job, when necessary. Often, an employee will not realize that these phone calls are inflating the rate of her phone bill. However, if the calls are necessary for the discharge of her duties and the calls affect her phone bill amount, then the employee is entitled under the law to reimbursement for each occasion where she used her personal phone at or for the workplace.

Similarly, an employee required to drive his own or another's vehicle in order to perform his work duties would also be entitled to reimbursement for those fuel expenses directly attributable to his work-related travel. If the employee uses the same vehicle for personal traveling, then there may be ambiguity in determining the amount owed to the employee by the employer. However, the employee would nevertheless be due a reasonable reimbursement for fuel spent in the discharge of his duties.

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If you and other employees have not been properly compensated for uniforms, instruments, or other necessities required to perform work for your employer, contact the top-rated lawyers at Kokozian Law Firm, APC who focus on work expense reimbursement cases. 323-857-5900. Ask about our free initial consultation.