Action required: Employers should review their cell phone policies in light of this new ruling

Labor Code section 2802 requires an employer to reimburse an employee who uses a personal cell phone for work-related calls, according to the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District.

"Reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills"

In a sweeping decision, published Tuesday, August 12, the Court of Appeal in Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, Inc., stated: "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." Even if the employee has purchased a personal cell phone plan that provides the employee with "unlimited" minutes and the employee does not incur any additional expense for his/her work-related calls, the employer must still provide a reasonable reimbursement to the employee.

Although Tuesday's decision remains subject to further appellate activity (and does not become final for 30 days) employers should begin to review their cell phone policies now to assess this emerging issue.