Employers Have to Reimburse Workers for Work-Related Cell Phone Expenses Even if Employees Have Unlimited Plans

Employees often do not think they are entitled to reimbursement of cell phone expenses if they have an unlimited plan.  Likewise, employers may also presume that they are under no obligation to reimburse their employees for using cell phones for work-related issues if the employees have an unlimited plan.  However,Gear-and-Gavel_gold they are incorrect.

Under California Labor Code section 2802, an employer must indemnify employees for all expenses incurred as a result of performing their duties.  The U.S. Northern District Court for the Northern District of California recently applied this law in Douglas O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc., 13-03826 (N.D. Cal., Dec. 9, 2015).  In that case, Uber drivers are seeking reimbursement of their cell phone expenses, among other relief, incurred while working.  Uber argued that it had no duty to reimburse expenses that were not actually incurred.  Uber reasoned that drivers who already have unlimited cell phone plans do not incur any expenses.

The U.S. District Court rejected Uber’s arguments and certified the class of Uber drivers to pursue reimbursement for phone expenses.  It reasoned that phone expenses are required for any Uber driver.  Afterall, at a minimum, a smart phone and data plan is necessary to access the Uber app.

The Court cited to Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1137, 1140:  “when employees must use their cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them.  Whether the employees have call phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills.”  A driver may not incur an additional expense if he or she already has an unlimited data plan, but a driver is still incurring an expense because a personal phone is being used for work purposes.  Thus, the Court found that reimbursement is still required when an employee is not incurring an extra expense.

If you feel that your employer has not reimbursed you for all business-related expenses or if you have questions about your work situation, please feel free to call Hunter Pyle Law for a free consultation at (510)-663-9240 or inquire@hunterpylelaw.com.  Hunter Pyle Law has handled numerous cases involving the failure of employers to reimburse its employees.