Well. We all knew it would happen. Employees in droves are suing their employers for expenses they incurred while working from home during COVID-19. Unfortunately, most of the cases in California are class actions and/or PAGA claims, both of which are incredibly expensive and time-consuming for employers.
In most of the lawsuits filed so far, employees are making claims under California Labor Code section 2802. That section requires employees to be reimbursed for their “reasonable” and “necessary” work-related expenses. Some employees are claiming several thousands of dollars of unreimbursed expenses for items such as telephone and internet fees. The more creative claims seek potential revenue employees could have collected if they had rented their home, and payment for utility bills. (Wow.) Of course, many employees saved money by teleworking. Will their employers be entitled to an offset of those expenses? Maybe, but it’s hard to say at this point.
Here’s the real lesson of these lawsuits: you MUST have a policy that clearly explains telework reimbursements, including what expenses are considered “reasonable” and “necessary,” the amount of any reimbursement, documentation requirements, and payment timeframes. Be sure employees acknowledge receipt of the policy. And then follow it.