Over the past several weeks, employees have filed a number of class action claims in California alleging that their employers failed to pay expenses associated with their home working arrangements, in violation of state law. These suits raise questions over employers’ obligation to pay for things like cellphone and internet connections, supplies, and even a portion of the employees’ utility bills.
There are no federal laws requiring such reimbursements unless the expenses drop employees below minimum wage. However, a number of states require employers to reimburse employees for necessary business expenses. Exactly what constitute necessary expenses remains unclear, especially when the items involve things like internet connections that employees also use for non-business reasons.
Employers may decide to get in front of these issues by adopting reimbursement policies that clearly define and provide reimbursement for legitimate expenses associated with telecommuting. These policies could include a proportional reimbursement for expenses that have dual business and personal uses. Documentation of such expenses and reimbursements could help avoid later disputes with employees who claim that they incurred unexpected costs associated with their work from home arrangements.