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Calif. Court Rules Businesses Must Reimburse Cell Phone Bills 161

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-stop-calling-her-from-work dept.
New submitter dszd0g writes The Court of Appeal of the State of California has ruled in Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service that California businesses must reimburse employees who BYOD for work. "We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them. Whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills." Forbes recommends businesses that require cell phone use for employees either provide cell phones to employees or establish forms for reimbursement, and that businesses that do not require cell phones establish a formal policy.
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Calif. Court Rules Businesses Must Reimburse Cell Phone Bills

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  • Salesmen (Score:5, Informative)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @07:57AM (#47719513) Homepage

    Not uncommon for a salesman to have two cell phones. One provided by the company, and their personal. Aside from the PITA of packing and charging both devices, it makes since to keep both the phone numbers and billing separate.

    • Not uncommon for a salesman to have two cell phones. One provided by the company, and their personal. Aside from the PITA of packing and charging both devices, it makes since to keep both the phone numbers and billing separate.

      It was before, but in recent years employers have been ending the company provided phone programs. We went through it recently and I lost my work phone. To be honest, I don't mind. I rooted my phone and can do with it what I want. Also, I don't feel obligated to answer just because it's a work call now. But yea, my employer wont like this ruling. Getting rid of the phones was painful but it saved them money. If they have to pay the money anyway, the entire painful mess is going to be a finger in their eye.

    • Next, they can rule that companies must pay some or all of the costs of satisfying their dress codes. Hopefully that is done in such a way as to discourage forcing people to wear a suit and tie.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:03AM (#47719563) Homepage Journal

    "From now on you are NOT to use your personal cellphones or other mobile devices for any work purposes. You will not be reimbursed. Use a payphone instead, and present all receipts to accounting for prompt reimbursement. Thank you for your help as we prioritize our cost metrics and structure our teamgroups toward innovative human-centered investment"

    • I can't remember the last time I saw a payphone in the wild.
      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        I can't remember the last time I saw a payphone in the wild.

        Airports

        • by idontgno (624372)

          You know what they used to call people who hung around payphones waiting for business phone calls?

          Street-level drug dealers.

          There's a fabulous business image to project right there.

      • Let alone one which gave receipts...

        • by cdrudge (68377) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @10:28AM (#47720917) Homepage

          Which is the whole point. The company gives explicit instructions that personal cell phones are not to be used or authorized. You have to find something alternative (pay phone, calling card, tin cans...). Now if you happen to still use your personal cell phone for a call, you're breaking policy. They won't know [wink wink] that you're using your personal cell phone for convenience unless you happen to try to get reimbursed for it. And if you try, well, that results in some type of reprimand/discipline since you violated company policy.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Which is the whole point. The company gives explicit instructions that personal cell phones are not to be used or authorized. You have to find something alternative (pay phone, calling card, tin cans...). Now if you happen to still use your personal cell phone for a call, you're breaking policy. They won't know [wink wink] that you're using your personal cell phone for convenience unless you happen to try to get reimbursed for it. And if you try, well, that results in some type of reprimand/discipline since

      • by Macrat (638047)

        McDonald's

        When Ray Kroc was alive, he banned pay phones from McDonald's. Since his death, they started popping up at the stores.

    • by Vlado (817879)

      Why would that be better?

      Also, it's not really a problem itemising calls and defining what were business calls and how much they cost. Data usage may be slightly more complicated, but even that could be managed. You could, for instance, have a separate email client for business emails and then track data usage of that client.

      I don't know where you work, bur with my job work is about getting things done and if costs are justifiable, then they are justifiable. At the end of the day, if I won't be able to chec

      • You could, for instance, have a separate email client for business emails and then track data usage of that client.

        I don't know where you work, bur with my job work is about getting things done and if costs are justifiable, then they are justifiable. At the end of the day, if I won't be able to check my work email then the boss will have to wait for my reply, not me.

        The issue I see with only tracking data usage is you leave out time dependant issues. I need my work computer to be connected during the working time, even if I'm not receiving any data, that's still part of business, letting me know nothing right now is coming in. When you are talking about working time, which for most is by hours, then your data usage (connection) should be by hours as well. If I work 8 hours out of 16 that I'm awake, that's half my internet bill (minus weekends).

        • by Vlado (817879)

          I don't quite understand your line of thought here.
          Let's suppose that emails account for all your business data traffic. If you can track your business email data consumption, by having a dedicated app for business emails, then what does time matter? Your phone provider bills you based on how much data you consume, not based on how long you're connected. Your phone is connected all the time anyway.

          The issue we're discussing here has to do with employer reimbursing you for expenses that you incur with your

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Getting charged by usage is becoming less and less common. Plus, the time spent itemizing what is a business expense is work time. I find it hard to believe that it wouldn't cost employers more money to pay each employee to itemize their usage than it would be to just pay the unmetered internet cost.
      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        Why would that be better?

        Bahahaha. Satire much?

        But seriously, lots of large companies don't think employees need mobile devices in the first place but employees who feel pressured to be high value contributors will do it anyway because they feel it gives them a leg up on the other employees. Paying 1,000 more phone bills isn't a tempting proposition for most large orgs, so there will be fallout from this.

    • I expect you are being ironic, but actually the problem I have observed is managers expecting to get hold of employees 24/7, so initiating the phone call.

    • by whoever57 (658626)
      You missed something from the policy:

      Employees may not be called on their cellphones about work-related matters.

    • Fantastic, it's like we're back in the 1980s and I can just ignore the phone unless I'm at my desk!
  • Working from home (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aheath (628369) * <adam.heath@c[ ]ast.net ['omc' in gap]> on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:04AM (#47719567)
    Should companies pay for part of the cable bill when employee are required to work from home?
    • Re:Working from home (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:08AM (#47719581)

      they used to.

      when I started at cisco, back in the early 90's, they bought us a 14.4 modem, ncd x-terminal and a 2nd phone line. later, when I was at sgi, they run us a company paid isdn line. juniper also gave us isdn lines, iirc.

      the big companies used to do this for us (all in calif., fwiw). now, they seem to assume 'you need inet and a phone, anyway' so they want to avoid paying, but I have always had to give my cell # to my workers and I do get work calls on my personal line. would be nice to have them just buy me a phone and fully cover it, at this point (my last job was android based devel and so, yes, we got a company phone and data plan all paid).

      • by crow (16139)

        Yup. EMC provided me with an ISDN line and later reimbursed me for my Internet expenses when they switched to VPN. I think it was just a few years ago that they stopped reimbursing, saying that home Internet is now normal, and the VPN use doesn't increase the cost.

        My phone has always been paid for by the company. If they stop paying for it, I stop using a cell phone.

        • by whoever57 (658626)

          I think it was just a few years ago that they stopped reimbursing, saying that home Internet is now normal, and the VPN use doesn't increase the cost.

          Since the Appeals court decided that plans with unlimited minutes and text were not a barrier to employers being held responsible for a portion of cellphone fees, the ruling could also apply to home Internet connections.

          • by Geeky (90998)

            I suppose the logic is that the internet is now on a par with basics like power for being essential and ubiquitous, and you presumably don't get reimbursed a portion of your electricity bill for working from home.

            I don't think that's good logic - I know people who only have 3G access because it's less hassle than setting up a fixed line and ADSL if you're young, renting and move often.

            Where I work, working from home is seen as a benefit, so you take the trade off - it's still cheaper for me to work from hom

        • by tepples (727027)

          home Internet is now normal, and the VPN use doesn't increase the cost

          Then calculate the VPN use in GB per month and bill whatever Exede (a satellite ISP) charges per GB over the cheapest plan.

      • now, they seem to assume 'you need inet and a phone, anyway' so they want to avoid paying, but I have always had to give my cell # to my workers and I do get work calls on my personal line. would be nice to have them just buy me a phone and fully cover it, at this point (my last job was android based devel and so, yes, we got a company phone and data plan all paid).

        I never give out my personal to co workers. That's why I have Google Voice. I automatically know when it rings if it's work or something else.

    • What about heating and electricity!

    • My company does this. You're entitled to reimbursement of your Internet connection charges (not the whole cable bill, of course) up to $50/mo. This actually doesn't cover my whole ISP bill (thanks, Comcast!), but hey, every little bit helps.

    • Should companies pay for part of the cable bill when employee are required to work from home?

      I'm perfectly happy with the compensation of "we'll let you use the Internet connection you already had if you want to not come into the office and be distracted by a hundred meetings and other interruptions".

      • by Cederic (9623)

        Agreed. My company provides a warm secure well equipped environment in which I can do my job. If I choose to work in a warmer more secure even better equipped environment of my own choosing then they're very graciously not stopping me; why would I expect them to pay me extra?!

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      How common is that? It seems rare that anyone is required to work from home, as most places prefer employees to be in the office instead. Yes, there are some employees who think they need to work even on a sick day, but that's in their minds. I have indeed called in for a day off because my car was in the shop and thus I could not work, and my employer would have had no possibility at all to force me to work from home. I'm not even going to answer my phone at home if it's from work. More people need to

    • by GNious (953874)

      My last employer paid our private internet-bill (up to some amount), as everyone in my team needed internet when working from home during night- and weekend-shifts.

      This went well until they repeatedly "forgot" to pay the bill, and the provider cut internet, phone and TV to some of the guys in the team, due to considering them all part of a single package (despite being billed separately).

  • It depends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:19AM (#47719655) Homepage Journal

    To me it all centers around: Was BYOD optional?

    If they offered a company device and you refused, then i say you are on your own.

    If they didnt offer one but you NEED it to do your job, then i say they are on the hook, as well as tax credit ramifications.

    If they dont offer and you only use it as its a convenience to make your life easier, then again, you are on your own.

    Furthermore, if you are optionally using your device for office work, they get to mandate policy on its use, up to and including MDM type control.

    BYOD is just a bad idea. Companies should give employees the tools they need for their job, and forbid personal devices.

    • If BYOD is optional, Reimbursement isn't that bad of an idea. Having to carry two phones around is a pain. And if you BYOD then the company makes out as they don't need to pay for the full service, you make out because you can get the phone you want and not carry around a cheaper often bigger and bulkier phone.

    • Dear god it's quite simple: do you use it for business purposes? If so, then the employer is on the hook for reimbursing you. Period. That's how it works for driving a car. Now the employer can provide you with a company phone and mandate you use it. Period. That is often the case when companies don't want to reimburse their employees. Business are getting cheaper and cheaper. Hello 1900s.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      If they give you the option of using your phone to help them make money, then they are on the hook.
      If they don't want to do that, then don't allow person phones for business.

      Companies are doing this to foist the cost of doing business onto their employees.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Just as the ruling stated: ""We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls..."

      This clearly leaves your employer the option of requiring you to carry a cellphone they own as a condition of employment. Or leaving you alone at home.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      If they dont offer and you only use it as its a convenience to make your life easier, then again, you are on your own.

      There is no such thing as "optional" work. If you don't "voluntarily" use your phone to get more work done, then you'll be replaced by somebody who does. You won't be fired for not using your cell phone - you'll be fired for being the slowest person in the department.

      If this were blue-collar work then we'd be talking about people "voluntarily" not using provided safety equipment because it slows them down. The only way to regulate this sort of thing is that if an employee gets injured due to deliberate d

  • by twistofsin (718250) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:19AM (#47719667)
    Than any other job that requires you to have your own tools?
    • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:30AM (#47719747)

      This isn't the tool (cellphone is to hammer) - this is the consumables (minutes is to nails).

      • by Polo (30659) *

        My cellphone bill pays for a limited number of nails, and one new hammer every 18-24 months.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Sweeeeeeet.

          But that's just a payment plan. Unless you have one of these crazy grandfathered plans, you are in fact paying more than if you bought your own hammer as it wore out.

          • by Polo (30659) *

            I have a crazy grandfathered plan with unlimited staples, but limited nails.

            NOW they have payment plans... which is just a way of having a lower priced plan if you own your phone/hammer. But my plan gives me the phone/hammer every 18-24 months.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        So is the gasoline to commute to work, but I never get reimbursed for that.

        • by Uberbah (647458)

          Getting reimbursed for work-related calls is no different than getting reimbursed for using your car for work, as in driving to a conference or making deliveries, not driving to work.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          No, and frankly that would be a bad policy as it would get rid of any motivation for you to move closer to where you work. Even so, it is very common for executives to get leased vehicles.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @08:21AM (#47719679)

    I've seen this before at a company in California. My company would only reimburse for work related calls.
    You couldn't just submit the entire bill for reimbursement, as if you called your wife and kids 50% of the time you couldn't get reimbursed for that.

    We were required to take the physical bill and cross out those calls which were personal so you could demonstrate what % of the bill was work related vs. personal. Doing this for what could be hundreds of calls per month caused people to just not reimburse their usage as it was too much of a pain to do.

    • what about unlimited cell phone plans?

    • by tompaulco (629533) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @10:55AM (#47721139) Homepage Journal
      This is what I don't understand about companies. They are too cheap to just reimburse you at a flat $50 rate for your cell phone, and so they will require you, an employee that costs them probably $100-$200 an hour, to go through and cross out the non-work related calls, then they will require someone else in HR who costs about the same to crosscheck what you did to make sure you are not lying, then they will reimburse you $45 because the phone bill was $90 and half the calls were company related. Total dollars recovered? $5. Dollars spent saving that money? $50-$100.
      It is the same way with travel. Rather than give you a per diem of $100, they want itemized receipts, which you have to collect, enter into the system, submit, your manager has to review and approve, and then Travel has to audit and approve. All because they don't want you to go eat Ramen and pocket the other $97. They spend thousands of dollars of company time to save a few hundred dollars on travel expenses.
      • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @01:17PM (#47722537)

        It is the same way with travel. Rather than give you a per diem of $100, they want itemized receipts, which you have to collect, enter into the system, submit, your manager has to review and approve, and then Travel has to audit and approve. All because they don't want you to go eat Ramen and pocket the other $97. They spend thousands of dollars of company time to save a few hundred dollars on travel expenses.

        Companies would love to give you a $100 per diem for meals. As you point out, in addition to being easier for the employee, it saves them money.

        The reason they require you to itemize receipts is because if they're ever audited by the IRS, they need to be able to produce the receipts to prove those were real incurred business expenses. Not imaginary numbers made up to pad the expenses and scam the IRS out of tax revenue.

        We also tried it the laid back way - we'll give you a $100 per diem, you don't have to itemize, just collect all your receipts and hand them in after your trip. The accountant who was going to double-check your numbers anyway will just do the itemizing. Net result was that employees forgot to save their receipts or "lost" them. They'd already been paid $100 for the meals, so there was no incentive for them to be careful with the receipts. So back we went to having the employee itemize if they wanted reimbursement.

      • by danomac (1032160)

        They are too cheap to just reimburse you at a flat $50 rate for your cell phone

        This is exactly what they do where I currently work, but not for all employees - only ones that require a phone or have a measurable benefit to having one. It works out to about 50% of the bill. I don't have any issues with that as most vendors/etc I deal with very rarely call outside of office hours. Heck, I just got off my cell phone as I was using it for a work related call. (I have unlimited minutes...)

        As an extra bonus, I go

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Per diem of $100 is excessive. That's why they prefer the receipts and restrict per diem until after a certain duration of travel. That's the equivalent of $26,000 a year. Drop that per diem to $20 for food, add an extra $20 for taxi or mass transit if they don't have rental car.

        It doesn't cost that much to process the receipts, much of it is automated. And you need the proof that expenses are legitimate if you are a government agency or a public firm, even a private firm is going to have to have detail

        • by tompaulco (629533)

          Drop that per diem to $20 for food

          $20 for food? Well, that will get you through breakfast if you are a lousy tipper.

          , add an extra $20 for taxi or mass transit if they don't have rental car.

          Better make sure the hotel is within a mile or two of the work place and you don't go anywhere for lunch.

          It doesn't cost that much to process the receipts

          It takes me about half an hour for a week long trip. That is about $100 cost to the company. Then it has to go to my manager who has to look it over and then to HR. Altogether it probably costs about $200 to process the receipts.

          And you need the proof that expenses are legitimate if you are a government agency or a public firm, even a private firm is going to have to have details if they want to claim the expenses on their taxes.

          Not according to the IRS. They allow a per diem rate (and it is much more than $20).
          For New

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Oh come on, breakfast at the hotel for free, lunch in the cafeteria, and dinner at a cheap restaurant or back at the hotel. Even in Europe I didn't spend that much to eat.

    • If the editing of the bill is required by your employer don't you just do it on your employer's time?
  • What a nightmare (Score:2, Informative)

    by fnj (64210)

    So let's say Joe buys on date X for personal use a no-contract phone and uses Virgin Mobile pay as you go, $37.xx per month which covers unlimited data and texts, and 300 voice minutes. What is a "reasonable percentage of his phone bill"? Hmmm? To me, it sounds like a cluster fuck to settle on. He doesn't even HAVE a "bill" for the amortization of the phone itself, but it is a real expense. He bought it in spring 2013 and intends to keep it until it develops a serious problem. Nobody knows when that will be

    • Just because it's an accounting cluster fuck doesn't meat that the company should get out of paying.

      It's an accounting cluster fuck to determine your vacation eligibility so guess what, no vacation for you.

    • Hardly. Why are people such fucking idiots when it comes to this stuff. There are formulas that have been used for the same thing for other devices. This is no different. You report the number of minutes you used the device for business purposes and assign a cost to each minute. Businesses do this all the time when determining what to charge customers.
  • My large (70k+), international company implemented a PC based smartphone service for employees to use since many work from home. I wonder if this passes their test. I've never used it cause I'd have to get a dedicated headset and I'd rather just use my cell phone but it will be interesting to see if there is any cascading effect on companies starting to use more softphones for people that work from home or are on the road with a laptop.

    Also, if phone usage is req'd to be reimbursed for working at home, w
  • I've been at a couple of companies now where there were cell reimbursement plans, but I never used them with my personal devices.

    1) Hassle. I pay like $30/month for 3 hours of voice (which I never use) and nearly unlimited data. Dealing with accountants to get what's basically lunch money out of the company each month isn't worth it.
    2) Line item sharing. I talk to a lot of interesting people on my cell phone, including friends working for competitors, previous employers and places that might want to hire

  • Following that logic, they should also be required to help pay for my network at home, part of the cost of my desktop, and my work clothes, since they have required me to have all three.

    My compensation requirement when I look for a job is dependent upon my work requirements, I don't have to work for a company that won't pay for my internet connection, provide a support computer, or pay for business wear. I choose to work for the company I work for because they compensate me enough that I can take care of th

    • This is not new. This is standard operating procedure for doing business. Companies have either provided company cars or reimbursed employees for driving their own cars. Companies have either provided company credit cards or reimbursed employees when they paid out of pocket. Hell some businesses have a clothes allowance. Grow up you fucking moron.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        I miss clothing allowances. OTOH, I do not miss wearing a suit every day.
        The first real company I worked for had a clothing allowance, free dry cleaning, and an person office decoration allowance.
        In fact, they gave me a bonus after I joined so I could get a couple of 'real' suits when they found out my suits where off the rack from sears.

    • uniforms have there own rules in alot of places.

      In all 50 states the basic part is you have basic wear AKA no logos / basic Dress Code then they don't have to pay. If they force your to have there shit's / etc the costs can't pull you under mini wage. If they force your to have there shit's / etc in some states they must pay for them and in other they must pay all costs.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Companies are foisting the cost of doing business onto there employees.
      So it needs to stop. AS we have seen, many times, corporation will demand more and more and they will all start doing it so you won't actually have a choice.

      The rest of you post is irrelevant to the discussion.

      • by swb (14022)

        This.

        Companies are merely looking to gain a set of benefits -- mobile communication and availability -- without paying for any of it.

        The benefit from their perspective is two fold -- not only are you underwriting a significant cost for them, a device, a phone plan, you're doing it on a personal device, which presumes that you're also providing them with a communications availability that they get without any additional wage compensation.

        The problem with it being "industry wide" means that they are no longer

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      If they require you to use the internet, and desktop at home for business purposes then they absolutely should reimburse you for it. Clothes are something else entirely. I mean, presumably you were going to wear clothes anyway. Maybe they require you to wear clothes that you wouldn't normally wear. If it was specific, like a uniform, they do normally provide that sort of thing. If it is khakis, dress slacks, or a suit, I would expect that they would cover this in the dress code policy and it would be your u
    • Following that logic, they should also be required to help pay for my network at home, part of the cost of my desktop, and my work clothes, since they have required me to have all three.

      Um....yeah? Do you wash the boss's car for free while ironing his socks while you're at it?

  • Obviously a dual-SIM phone can alleviate this problem, as can a modern phone with multiple SIP accounts configured, assuming then you have a good data plan, or can live happily as a simple hotspot-whore, (and most people could!).

    To cite a reference, these Nokia phones have SIP support within the OS, so battery life is excellent, compared to having to run an App just for SIP accounts, (like SIPdroid).

    http://developer.nokia.com/com... [nokia.com]

    The Nokia N9 and N900 phones also have SIP support within the OS and battery

  • At my former job the seniors got a $50-per-month phone stipend, but we juniors didn't. I once asked about it and they told me I didn't qualify. I shrugged it off, it was no big deal.

    Then one day my phone started ringing after I got home from work; it was my boss. I didn't pick up the call. He called a second time; I didn't pick up the call.

    Literally the next day they announced that juniors would also receive the stipend, and would be expected to answer calls when they could outside of business hours. That m

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @11:59AM (#47721729)

    In fact, they probably are quietly applauding the court's decision. Because the IRS.

    The Internal Revenue Service frequently nit-picks employee reimbursement and compensation decisions to death. Pay some key personnel for expenses incurred and some auditor will nit-pick the decision to death. Taxable, not taxable. Reasonable business expense vs discretionary employee benefit. Screw it. The courts has ruled. We have to pay our employees. So you lousy auditors can crawl back into your rat-holes and stay out of private business decisions.

  • . . . and your supervisor calls you on your cell to ask if you can come into work, they need to reimburse you?

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