Unpaid Expense Reimbursement - Glendale Employment Lawyer

Unpaid Expense Reimbursement

California employers are required to reimburse employees for business expenses, but things don’t always work out that way. Unfortunately, some employers try to pass off operating expenses on employees.

Unpaid Expense Reimbursement in Glendale and Los Angeles

The state has specific laws in place that give you, an employee, the right to be paid back for expenses you incur while you’re performing your work duties.

If your employer failed to reimburse you for business-related costs you have incurred, you may have an unpaid expense reimbursement suit on your hands. While only your California employment attorney can tell you whether you have a case, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the law if you feel your employer has failed to reimburse you for your expenses.

What Expenses Are Employers Supposed to Reimburse Employees For?

The California Labor Code says that an employer has to reimburse an 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.”

That means if you spent your own money to get a job done, or if you incurred some type of loss while you were performing your job, your employer has to pay you back. It also means that if your employer tells you to purchase something or that you must go somewhere during the course of performing your job, he or she has to reimburse you.

Some of the most common expenses employers reimburse employees for include:

  • Mileage
  • Fuel, maintenance, and lease payments on company cars
  • Travel expenses
  • Uniforms
  • Work phones and home internet connections
  • Tools and equipment

Mileage and Company Cars

If your employer requires you to drive elsewhere (a place other than your normal workplace) in your own vehicle to perform your work duties, other than for your normal commute, he or she has to reimburse you for the expenses you incur doing so.

Employers must reimburse employees for any expenses they incur when using company cars to perform their jobs, as well. That can include fuel, maintenance or repairs, and lease payments, as well as insurance.

Travel Expenses

If your employer requires you to fly or drive (or otherwise travel) to another location, he or she must cover your travel expenses. That can include the cost of your ticket, lodging, the cost of a rental car, and fuel, as well as other expenses you incur while traveling.


In some cases, employees who are required to wear uniforms don’t have to buy them; in others, employers can require employees to purchase, launder, and maintain their uniforms.

If the uniform is workplace-specific—it bears the company logo, for example—the employer cannot require its employees to pay for it.

If the uniform is not workplace-specific—like khakis and a polo shirt or medical scrubs—the employer can make the employee provide it.

Work Phones and Home Internet Connections

Employers can require employees to use personal cell phones for work, but if they do, they must pay a reasonable percentage of the bill. That’s true even if you already have unlimited minutes and data; your employer has to pay a percentage of your bill, even if it didn’t cost you anything “extra” to use your phone for work.

If your employer requires you to stay connected to the internet and use it from home to work, the same is true. Your employer may be responsible for covering a reasonable percentage of your bill (even if you don’t have to upgrade your connection plan or you use the internet primarily for personal use).

Tools and Equipment

For the most part, employers can’t require you to pay for the tools and equipment you use while you’re performing your job duties. However, in some cases, employers can require you to purchase your own hand tools that are typically required in your trade (like a hammer for people who build homes or a pair of scissors for hairstylists). It’s best to talk with your Glendale employment lawyer if you’re not sure whether your employer was wrong for requiring you to bring your own tools to the job.

Limits to What Employers Are Supposed to Cover

The law allows for common-sense limits on an employer’s obligation to reimburse employees. Expenses that have nothing to do with work, or extreme expenses that didn’t have to be extreme, may not be reimbursable. For example, if your employer told you to take a potential client out for dinner and drinks, it’s your job to make responsible choices. If your choices are exorbitant and unnecessary (like hiring a helicopter pilot to fly you to the restaurant, and paying to have the entire dining room closed to serve only your party), your employer may not be obligated to pay you back.

With that said, though, your employer is responsible for knowing that he or she needs to reimburse you in certain situations—even if you don’t ask to be repaid.

Do You Need to Talk to a Glendale Employment Lawyer About Unpaid Expense Reimbursement?

You may be entitled to financial compensation if your employer has failed to reimburse you for expenses you incurred while performing your duties. Please call us at 818-659-8331 or toll-free at 800-774-4163 so we can evaluate your situation and let you know how we can help.


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