Companies on the Hook for Work-Related Cellphone Bills

Companies on the Hook for Work-Related Cellphone Bills

Time to tell the accounting department to crack open the company checkbooks. The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District says you have to reimburse employees for work calls made on private cellphones, according to Michael Newman of Barger & Wolen.

Reimbursement is always required and not just limited to when the employee incurs an extra expense on his or her bill, the court ruled. “Otherwise, the employer would receive a windfall because it would be passing its operating expenses onto the employee,” the court held. The plaintiffs, a class of employees at Schwan’s Home Service Inc., argued that the failure to pay them for work-related uses of their cellphones was a violation of the Labor Code, explains Newman.

The court went on to note that employees must be reimbursed even if they are not the ones paying for the phone bills, said Newman. “It is no concern to the employer that the employee may pass on the expense to a family member or friend, or to a carrier that has to then write off a loss,” the ruling held. The court also noted it doesn’t matter whether an employee changed plans to accommodate the work-related use of the phone, he or she still must be paid a “reasonable percentage” of the bill if it’s been used for work.

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