Must an Employer Reimburse You for Expenses Incurred While Doing Your Job?

Award-Winning California Employment Law Firm Since 2012
On Behalf of Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian | September 16, 2023 Unsafe Working Conditions

Navigating the world of work can come with a lot of questions. And one question that many employees ponder is, ‘Do employers need to reimburse me for expenses I incur while working?’. Let’s dive into this topic and shed some light on the matter.

What Does the Law Say?

The legal landscape varies depending on where you are in the world. In the US, the laws can vary between states. However, one common principle holds true in many jurisdictions: if an expense is necessary for the performance of your job and is incurred primarily for the benefit of your employer, there’s a good chance you should be reimbursed.

For example, in California, an employer is legally required to reimburse an employee for all necessary expenditures that arise directly from their duties. This can range from mileage when using a personal vehicle for work tasks, to buying special equipment, tools, or software programs. However, this might be different if you are an independent contractor.

Distinguishing Between Work and Personal Expenses

This might seem straightforward, but it can get a little tricky. For example, say you buy a nice pen that you like to use at work. Is it necessary for your job? Probably not. On the other hand, imagine that your employer requires you to wear a specific uniform but does not provide it. If you have to go out and buy it yourself, that cost should be on them.

Remember, the key is that the expense should be primarily for the benefit of your employer, and not just for personal convenience.

Having a Clear Policy in Place

It’s beneficial for both employers and employees to have a clear, written policy in place regarding reimbursements. Such a policy can point out which expenses are covered, the process for seeking reimbursements, and any limits or restrictions.

A good policy provides clarity and reduces misunderstandings. It also gives employees confidence in knowing their rights and the proper procedure for claiming reimbursements.

What if There’s a Dispute?

Disputes can arise for various reasons. Maybe an employer believes an expense isn’t valid, or perhaps an employee feels they haven’t been adequately reimbursed. In such situations, open communication is key. Initially, the concerned parties should discuss the matter to try and resolve the misunderstanding.

If the issue persists, employees may want to seek advice or mediation through an appropriate labor board or legal counsel, depending on the nature of the dispute and the laws governing the workplace.

The Role of Documentation

Keeping track of your expenditures and having proof of purchase (like receipts) is crucial.

For employees, maintaining detailed records can simplify the reimbursement process. These records provide clear evidence of the expenses incurred, making it easier for employers to verify and approve them. Whether it’s a digital snapshot of a receipt, a logbook for mileage, or invoices for purchased equipment, having these documents on hand can expedite the process.

For employers, requiring documentation ensures accountability and prevents potential misuse or misunderstanding regarding the nature of the expenses. It’s a win-win: employees get their dues, and employers ensure the integrity of the reimbursement process.

Why Effective Communication is Important

At its core, the reimbursement process is built upon mutual respect and understanding between employers and employees. Effective communication is the cornerstone of this understanding.

Being proactive in discussing potential expenditures can save a lot of headaches later on. If you foresee a significant work-related expense on the horizon, a quick chat with your supervisor or HR department can clarify whether it’s covered.

For employers, communicating regularly and updating the reimbursement policy ensures that there are no gray areas. Holding workshops or training sessions can also be invaluable. They educate employees about what’s reimbursable, the documentation required, and the process to follow, reducing potential friction points.

Regular check-ins and open channels for feedback also help build a culture where employees feel valued and heard, and where employers stay informed and responsive to their team’s needs. Through effective communication, the reimbursement process becomes smoother and more transparent for everybody involved.

Are You Dealing with Reimbursement Problems at Work?

Facing a workplace dispute about reimbursements? At Eric A. Boyajian Law Firm, we’ve got your back. We specialize in untangling even the most complex disputes, ensuring you’re represented fairly. Don’t let uncertainty or intimidation hold you back.

Our experienced lawyers are well-versed in common workplace disputes and will help you understand your rights at work regarding reimbursement. Whether you and your employer can’t agree on what you should be reimbursed for or you’re still waiting to be reimbursed for a significant past work expense, we’re here to help.

Contact us today by visiting 450 N Brand Blvd #613, Glendale, CA 91203.

Call us today for a free consultation, on (818) 839-5969.