Boss Must Pay for Use of Employee’s Cellphones

Employers must reimburse their workers when mandating that an employee’s personal cell phone be used for work-related calls, a state appeals court said Tuesday.

“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,” said Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst of the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles.

The decision overturns an order denying class certification to 1,500 service managers in a suit against Schwan’s Home Service Inc.

Schwan’s is the largest direct-to-home frozen food delivery provider in the U.S., with 15,000 employees, and is best known for its ice cream. It is based in Minnesota.

The appeals court sent the case back to the trial judge with an order to reconsider class certification and the proposed use of statistical sampling evidence to establish liability or damages.

Colin Cochran filed the class action against Home Service on behalf of customer service managers who were not paid for the expense of their work-related use of personal cell phones.

The question was whether an employer always has to reimburse and employee for the reasonable expense of mandatory use of a personal cell phone, or if it is limited to an extra expense incurred that the employee would not have otherwise incurred.

“The answer is that reimbursement is always required,” the court held, adding, “Otherwise, the employer would receive a windfall because it would be passing on its operating expenses onto the employee.”

Joining the decision were Justices Victoria Chavez and visiting Judge Edward Ferns, serving by special designation.

Case: Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, No. B247160



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