California court rules that employers must reimburse employee work related use of personal cellphones

California court rules that employers must reimburse employee work related use of personal cellphones
Do you use your mobile phone on the job? Does your company provide you with a device or do you work in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment? If the latter, are you reimbursed for any part, or all, of your mobile phone expenses?

In the case of Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, a Court of Appeals has ruled that employers are liable to reimburse such expenses as part of the state’s Labor Code.

How much needs to be reimbursed? The court only states, “a reasonable percentage” of the cell phone bill should be compensated for work-related activities on the phone, whether it is phone calls, or email, or other uses. The rate plan was immaterial in the court’s eyes, moreover, it did not matter who was actually paying the bill. If an employee happened to be on a family plan or something, or maybe a relative was paying the bill, that is of no concern to the employer.

The ruling does not go into effect for 30 days, but it may have employers wondering what to do and how to do it. One common way will be to require employees to actually log their usage and submit an expense report. A simpler way would be to offer a monthly stipend to offset the monthly bill. The method for the most control would be for a company to set up a business account with a given carrier, and provide dedicated devices for work.

If you use your phone for work in California, expect changes in the coming weeks.

source: CIO

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16 Comments

1. TheMan

Posts: 494; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

I've argued this for years and, given the move towards BYOD, this will get interesting -- at least here in Cali.

12. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

Definitely agree -- this is an excellent ruling. There will be a lot of ripple effects over the next few years if this ruling holds up. Personally, I find it somewhat amusing as I always specifically tell my employer that I will not use my personal phone for work. Not going to change my policy until they start paying me for out-of-the-office time/overtime.

14. Hammerfest

Posts: 384; Member since: May 12, 2012

yup, had one job where I had to drive around and they wouldnt pay for a MAP (you know, manual GPS :D ), any data I used for GPS, or my cell time for when I was required to call ahead or call when on site, hell, I even had to give customers my PERSONAL cell for support needs! This ruling is about the best thing to happen to stop company's from exploiting an employees own time/equipment/money

16. JC557

Posts: 1925; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

My employer has done this for me for a couple of years now. Quite a few people I know also have their employers do something similar. Still this is good for people using their own property for work related purposes. It's like the employer reimbursing you for gas if you need to be at another location but won't supply you a company car.

2. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Gee another reason to avoid California.

10. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

So you want to pay for the phone plan you use for work yourself instead of the company you're working for?

11. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

Pretty much all iFans love the concept of someone getting screwed over in the name of profit.

13. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

If you are on work, and getting paid, then technically they are paying for your phone already. Without them paying you, you couldn't get a phone. Are they going to pay for the BYOS, bring your own shoes, too? I don't have a dress code, should they have to pay for my clothing? All this means, is that a company will either have to provide phones, or now pay you extra. You wonder why employees hate hiring new people? It is because a 40k employee is something like a 50k employee to the worker sometimes more.

3. Derekjeter

Posts: 1557; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

My company allows me to expense $75 a month for my cell phone. I've been with them for 5 years. We used to only get $50 a month, but it changed in 2012.

4. Vexify

Posts: 570; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

Apple already pays a percentage of your phone bill (depending on your job title). Does this law mean they will pay a larger percentage of it or would this not apply if a company already does this?

7. TheMan

Posts: 494; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

This law/ruling would affect most those firms NOT subsidizing. As the post says, the specification is that it be "reasonable" -- and non-zero. Measurement will be the key. I suspect most companies will say "don't use" or "please itemize"

8. Vexify

Posts: 570; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

Thank you. You're the Man.

5. tettech

Posts: 69; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

Employers will probably implement by letting workers log their minutes and data usage. Similar to logging my miles for end-of-the-month reimbursements.

6. AntiFanBoyz unregistered

Good for Californians... This is as it should be.

9. TheMan

Posts: 494; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Agreed. I expect this to spread (I'm looking at you, New York)

15. p51d007

Posts: 705; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

My employer pays $50 bucks a month for my personal use. Since I use straight talk, it pays my phone bill each month. With the almost 81 bucks I save, versus a contract phone, I can buy a new phone pretty much anytime I want. My Ascend Mate2 was only 300 bucks.

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