Court rules that employers must reimburse employees who use their personal cell phones for work.

In Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1137, the California Court of Appeal ruled that employers are legally required to reimburse employees for cell phone charges if the employees use their personal cell phones for work.

Under California Labor Code section 2802, an employer is required to indemnify its employees for all reasonable and necessary expenses the employees incur in the course of their jobs. Before Cochran, no appellate court had directly applied Section 2802 to cell phone charges.

Importantly, Cochran states that an employer must pay a share of the employee’s cell phone charges even if the employee is on a flat rate plan. The court ruled that, in such a case, the employer must pay a reasonable share of the employee’s flat rate.

Although not discussed in the Cochran opinion, violations of Section 2802 also trigger civil penalties under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Employees are entitled to share in these civil penalties if they file a claim under PAGA. The civil penalties could be as high as $200 per pay period for each violation, or as much as $10,000 per year.

If you used your personal cell phone for work reasons, you may have a claim under Section 2802 and PAGA.   Please contact us for a free consultation.