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Expense reimbursement is an integral part of an employee’s rights. Your employer must reimburse you for expenses that the employer requires as part of your job duties. Knowing your rights can help you seek reimbursement and fight back against an employer baselessly denying your claims.

What are My Expense Reimbursement Rights?

California Labor Code section 2802 requires your employer to reimburse you for expenses incurred as an employee so long as the expenses meet the following criteria:

  • The employee incurred the expense in order to perform their job duties
  • The expenses were reasonable and necessary

Reasonable and necessary are the two most critical aspects of this law, and while potentially subjective, these requirements will entirely determine the validity of a request reimbursement claim. For example, suppose you purchased a high-end gaming laptop rather than a more basic one that would reasonably allow you to fulfill your duties. In that case, the expense will likely be considered an unnecessary expense.

Similarly, if your employer provided you with a laptop that meets the requirements necessary to perform your job duties, but you didn’t like it. Instead, if you chose to purchase a new one, your employer would not be required to cover the expense of the new laptop.

A few of the most common work expenses are:

  • Phone/internet charges
  • Mileage
  • Airfare
  • Tolls
  • Postage
  • Computer equipment
  • Transport fees
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Conference-related fees
  • Required training or education

Employers do not have a responsibility to pay all the expenses incurred by an employee to show up for work. For example, the expense will likely qualify for reimbursement if a specific uniform is required. However, generic clothing worn while at work will not be eligible for reimbursement.

There are also times when the employer will cover only part of an expense. For example, if you booked a luxury taxi service instead of standard, the employer may find this unnecessary and reimburse only the standard fee.

It is important to note that employers are NOT permitted to use employment contracts that get employees to waive their right to reimbursement. Therefore, any clause that attempts this would be considered null and void.

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Does My Employer Have To Reimburse Me For Expenses Incurred Due To Remote Work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the way many people work. With offices being closed for an extended period of time, workers have found themselves incurring significant additional expenses just to do their jobs effectively from home.

Because this structural shift has been necessary, and these costs would not have been incurred if the employees could still work in the office, many of these additional expenses would qualify for reimbursement.

Some potential work-from-home expenses include:

  • Office equipment such as furniture, lighting, printing/scanning equipment
  • Utilities such as internet, phone service, heating, and air conditioning could qualify under certain circumstances.
  • Technology such as laptops and extra monitors
  • Audio equipment, such as noise-canceling headphones, necessary to take work-related calls

How Long Do I Have To Request Expense Reimbursement?

The law governing expense reimbursement has a clear statute of limitations. Only expenses incurred in the last four years are eligible. If you have not submitted a claim and now have expenses dating further back than this, you likely have no legal recourse to recover these expenses.

If you have more recent expenses, you should act quickly to ensure that you’re adequately reimbursed.

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What Should I Do If I'm Not Getting Reimbursed for My Expenses?

If your employer continues to deny your expense reimbursement, it is time to take action by filing a claim.

To thoroughly document your expense reimbursement claim, we suggest that you begin to collect the following as soon as possible:

  • Itemized receipts or statements for the unreimbursed expenses
    • Including mileage logs, if applicable
  • Proof of all reimbursement requests previously submitted for these expenses (including informal requests such as texts or emails)
  • A copy of your employer’s expense reimbursement policy
  • Copies of all communication from your employer asking you to incur the expense

When valid requests are denied, you have the right to file an expense reimbursement claim.

Working with an experienced lawyer will ensure you have the best possible chance of a favorable outcome in your case.

How Can an Expense Reimbursement Lawyer Help Me?

Employers have an obligation to pay expense reimbursement to you as an employee. If an employer refuses to reimburse these expenses, it’s time to work with an expense reimbursement lawyer who will:

  • Make sure you understand your rights
  • Represent your claim professionally
  • Help get your expenses reimbursed

If you’re spending money on work-related costs your employer should be covering, contact us immediately to schedule a free consultation.

Frequently (un)asked questions

The laws that require employers to reimburse their employees do not specify how long the company has to make this reimbursement. However, the expenses need to be paid back within a reasonable timeframe.

There is currently no federal law requiring employers to reimburse expenses for their employees, but in some states, there are laws that make this a requirement. For example, here in California, Labor Code section 2802 deals with an employee’s rights to expense reimbursement.

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After experiencing any type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, it’s difficult to know where to turn and who you can trust. At the Malk Law Firm, we have successfully represented employees against large and small companies (all over California and Washington) in various labor and employment-related lawsuits.

Trust our team to fight for your rights in the workplace. Our employee rights lawyer is available for a consultation to discuss your options. Please reach out today to tell us about your case.

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