Do Employers Need to Reimburse Work-at-Home Employees for Their Expenses?

Working at home has caused some confusion about labor law matters. In addition to matters pertaining to working hours and overtime, employers and employees alike lack clarity about reimbursable expenses.

In California, employers typically must reimburse workers for their expenses from working at home. Here are a few things that California workers should know about this developing area of employment law.

Supplies

The California Labor Code requires employers to pay their employees for any reasonable expenses that employees incur in the performance of their duties. In the context of work-at-home, this will include office equipment and supplies. For example, printer ink, paper, and a webcam may be expenses that an employer is responsible to pay for.

Services

An employer may need to compensate workers for a portion of their telephone or internet service. However, employees may need to produce evidence showing that the percentage they are requesting is proportional to their usage of these services for work purposes.

Exclusions

While a home may serve as an office, an employer does not have any obligation to pay for an employee’s living expenses. Interpreting the law to apply to the physical space in which an employee works at home would create too much of a grey area in tax liability.

Reimbursement should come from a company’s accounts payable department rather than payroll. However, this type of compensation is a core component of human resources management. If a company fails to honor its obligations to one employee, it may very well be failing to provide fair compensation to its entire work-at-home workforce.

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