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BYOD Ruling Requires Employers to Reimburse for Work-Related Calls

08.22.14

How will BYOD other than cell phones be impacted by a California court ruling that “when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them”? On August 12, 2014 in the case of Colin Cochran vs. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. the California Court of Appeals reversed a Superior Court in Los Angeles County Court.

The Order discussed the purpose of the California Statute was to “‘to prevent employers from passing their operating expenses on to their employees.’” Specifically that:

Pursuant to section 2802, subdivision (a), “[a]n employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer[.]”

The threshold question in the case was:

Does an employer always have to reimburse an employee for the reasonable expense of the mandatory use of a personal cell phone, or is the reimbursement obligation limited to the situation in which the employee incurred an extra expense that he or she would not have otherwise incurred absent the job?

The Answer from the Court was “that reimbursement is always required. Otherwise, the employer would receive a windfall because it would be passing its operating expenses onto the employee.” The Court ruled:

Thus, to be in compliance with section 2802, the employer must pay some reasonable percentage of the employee’s cell phone bill. Because of the differences in cell phone plans and worked-related scenarios, the calculation of reimbursement must be left to the trial court and parties in each particular case.

Time will tell how BYOD tablets, laptops, and home computers are impacted by courts that follow the ruling in this case.

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