A recent ruling by a California appellate court has significant implications for employers regarding their responsibility to reimburse employees for job-related expenses incurred while working from home. The case of Thai v International Business Systems highlighted that even if employees were directed to work from home by a government order (as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic), employers are still legally required to cover necessary expenses related to their work.

In the lawsuit, plaintiff Paul Thai and others took legal action against IBM for failing to reimburse employees, including Thai, for equipment they had to purchase to effectively work from home following a government mandate. The court ruled in favor of the employees, rejecting IBM’s argument that the government order relieved them of their obligation to reimburse under Section 2802 of California state law. This section mandates that employers must cover essential work-related expenses incurred by their employees.

The court’s key point was that the reason for employees working from home does not absolve employers from their duty to reimburse. This ruling has immediate and broader implications for employers. Not only are they potentially liable for expenses incurred by employees during government-mandated remote work periods, but even when employees work from home intermittently due to space constraints in the office. In such cases, employers might still be required to cover expenses related to supplies that facilitate remote work.

In essence, the ruling reinforces the notion that employers must uphold their obligation to reimburse employees for necessary expenses linked to their job tasks, regardless of the circumstances compelling remote work. This decision underlines the importance of compliance with California labor law and serves as a reminder to employers to ensure that they appropriately address reimbursement obligations for their remote-working employees.

Sanjay Sabarwal focuses his practice in the areas of Employment Law, Family Law and Personal Injury Law and provides outstanding service and expertise for your legal right to win cases with personalized attention and insightful counsel. Mr. Sabarwal has been the Co-Owner and House Counsel for Ziba Beauty, member of the American Bar Association, Los Angeles Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association and Orange County Bar Association. He also serves on the Advisory Board for Youth Business Alliance, which connects entrepreneurs to speak at underserved schools in Los Angeles County. He is also a board member for the Artesia Chamber of Commerce. Contact Sanjay at sanjay@sabarwallaw.com or (562) 250-4471.

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