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If you once again begin traveling for work, it is important that you know your rights to expense reimbursement. If you have concerns, you should speak with a California unreimbursed business expenses attorney about your options.

Now that vaccinations are increasing, more and more people might resume travel for work purposes over the course of 2021. While work travel can make the job more interesting, it can also be costly, as any type of travel can be. Employees should know that they have the right to get reimbursed for all qualified expenses and realize when employers are denying them this payment.

Employers commonly fail to properly reimburse employees for business travel expenses, and if this happens to you, contact our California unreimbursed business expenses lawyers to learn about your best legal options.

California Law Regarding Travel Expenses

The California Labor Code requires employers to reimburse employees for any necessary losses or expenditures the employee incurs in direct relation to their jobs. If you incur expenses when you follow your employer’s direction (such as to travel) or as a direct consequence of your job duties (such as meeting with out-of-town clients), you should be reimbursed for the costs you cover.

Many people travel for work, and the reimbursement for travel-related expenses will be based on:

  • The nature of your job
  • How often you travel for work
  • How long you spend away from home
  • The policies of your employer regarding travel expenses

This can be a confusing matter, and you always want to make sure you have full understanding of your reimbursement before you travel for work.

Common Reimbursed Expenses

Work-related travel can cause you to incur many commonly reimbursed expenses, such as:

  • Plane tickets
  • Mileage expenses
  • Rental cars
  • Gas
  • Hotels or other lodging
  • Tolls
  • Parking
  • Taxi or rideshare costs
  • Public transportation costs
  • Costs to access phone or internet
  • Expenses to use business centers, such as printing or copies
  • Registration fees for conferences
  • Postage for shipping work materials
  • Meals and tips
  • Currency conversions for travel to foreign countries

You should not expect your employer to cover the costs of personal entertainment while you travel, though they should reimburse you for your necessary meals.

Many employers set limits on travel expense reimbursement, such as capping hotel rates or only paying for economy class flights. Some employers set a per diem maximum for expenses. However, if you have necessary work-related expenses that exceed the per diem, the law can overrule your employer’s policies. For example, if you are required to stay in a certain area, and you cannot find any lodging within your employer’s budget, you should likely still receive reimbursement for your lodging expenses despite your employer’s policy.

Failure to Reimburse

When an employer fails to reimburse you for qualified travel expenses, they are in violation of California labor laws. You have the right to take legal action to seek all unreimbursed expenses. The right lawyer can negotiate with your employer to try to resolve the matter or escalate the matter to court if needed.

California Labor Laws Concerning Reimbursement

Under CA Labor Code Article 2 [2800-2810.8], it is required that an employer “indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties”. The employer is also required to indemnify the employee when they incur expenditures or losses under the directions of the employer, even if unlawful, unless the employee at the time of following the directions believed them to be unlawful.

What this means is that the CA Labor Code requires employers to reimburse you whenever you experience expenses or losses:

  • While directly performing your job duties
  • When directed by your employer to do so, so long as you thought the directions were legal

Adhering to the CA Labor Code is not optional for your employer, and if they have engaged in violations, they can be held legally accountable by your employment attorney from Mara Law Firm.

Unpaid Wages and Especially Common in the Service Industry

California is different from most other states as it is required that tipped employees are paid the same minimum wage of $14 per hour. Service workers in other states can expect to make the federal minimum wage for tipped employees, which is significantly lower. Whether you are earning tips or not and performing work for your employer, you are entitled to the minimum wage. If your employer requires you to perform prior to your schedule shift time, or stay afterwards, to perform work duties, you must be paid for the entire time.

Employers cannot require tipped employees to work for free prior to and following their shifts, but rather must be paid for all time under the direction of the employer. Additionally, when you receive tips on top of your wages, you are the sole owner of those tips.

Employers Cannot Participate in Tip-Sharing

Under CA Labor Code Section 351, employers and their agents are prohibited from keeping any portion or sharing in the gratuity that is left to one or more employees by a customer. It is also illegal for employers to make wage deductions from gratuities, whether the deductions are direct or indirect credits against the wages of an employee.

Gratuities are defined as a tip, gratuity, or money that is paid or left to an employee by a patron of a business that is over the actual amount that is due to the business for goods, food, drink, and other articles sold or served to patrons. Amounts paid directly from a patron to a dancer are also the sole property of the danger under IWC Wage Orders. Under CA law, gratuities are the sole property of the employee or employees to whom they are given.

If your employer or a manager of the business that you work for has taken a portion of your tips or other gratuities, they have engaged in wage theft and you and your coworkers could be entitled to damages.

Contact Our California Unreimbursed Business Expenses Lawyers

At the Mara Law Firm, we stand up for California employees and help seek the wages they deserve, including unreimbursed business expenses. Call (619) 234-2833 or contact us online to discuss your rights today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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