If you work remotely in California, you are generally protected by the same wage and hour laws that protect employees who work on the job site itself. That is, if you are a nonexempt employee, you should be paid at least the minimum wage; you should be paid the appropriate rate of overtime pay for all overtime hours you work; and you are entitled to standard meal and rest breaks as required by law. If your employer fails to pay you or provide the proper breaks, you could be owed significant back pay.
However, remote employees in California are not always aware of other rights they have. Likewise, many employers either ignore remote employees’ rights or simply don’t know the rules, which are ever-changing as remote working becomes more common. Following are some important things to understand about working remotely in California.
Reimbursement for certain business expenses
In many types of jobs, the employer is responsible for providing the tools and other items the employee needs to do the job. In other words, the employer is not supposed to make the employee cover the cost of tools, uniforms and other items needed for the employee to do the work. If the employer does not provide those material items, California law requires the employer to reimburse the employee for any “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee” in the course of doing the job or while otherwise carrying out the employer’s directives.
That principle also applies to employees who work remotely in California. For example, when you work from home, you may incur business expenses for phone use, Internet, office supplies and office furniture.
Even if you use your personal phone or computer for work, your employer should still reimburse you if your employer does not otherwise provide a work device or a phone plan. Many employers also provide employees with a monthly stipend to cover these expenses.
Getting paid for hours worked and getting your proper meal and rest breaks
The COVID-19 pandemic led to many more employees working from home. Unfortunately, some employers failed to take the proper steps to ensure that employees still received their proper breaks and were paid for all hours worked.
If you believe this has happened to you, the problem may not be isolated to your situation. Other employees may also be affected. To learn more about these matters, please see our overview of employment class actions.