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Under California Law, Employees Must Be Reimbursed For Personal Cell Phones Used For Business

According to an important recent California court decision, companies with either formal or informal "Bring Your Own Device" ("BYOD") policies - meaning that employees bring their own personal cell phones to work to double as work cell phones - are required under California law to reimburse employees for work-related calls that employees make on their personal cell phones.

The decision is Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, Inc., 228 Cal.App.4th 1137 (August 12, 2014); a copy of the decision is here. The rule laid down by the decision is straightforward: If employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, California Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them. This rule applies even if someone other than the employee pays the cell phone bill for the cell phone in question. Nor does it matter whether "the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes." According to the decision, all that matters is whether "an employee is required to make work-related calls on a personal cell phone." "To show liability under [Labor Code] section 2802, an employee need only show that he or she was required to use a personal cell phone to make work-related calls, and he or she was not reimbursed."

How much does the employer have to reimburse its employees? According to the decision, "to be in compliance with section 2802, the employer must pay some reasonable percentage of the employee's cell phone bill." There is no ironclad rule for determining what is "reasonable"; that determination will depend on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.

If you have any questions about this decision, your company's cell phone policy, or any other employment and labor law questions your company may be facing, please feel free to contact us.

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