Keyboard Illustration BYODBy Kristen Verrastro and Michele Haydel Gehrke

Loyal readers will recall our discussion of the perplexing Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Services, Inc. cell phone reimbursement case in this space (initially here, and then again here).

We’ve yet to see any other California appellate decision that confirms or challenges Cochran’s holding that, under California Labor Code section 2802, employees are entitled to reimbursement for “some reasonable percentage” of their personal cell phone bill if they must use their personal cell phone for work. And that “reasonable percentage” seems to apply irrespective of whether (1) the employee actually incurs any additional charges for the work-related portion of the total cell phone use, (2) a third party pays the employee’s bill, or (3) the employee has made any voice, text, or data plan changes because of the employee’s work-related usage.

But hold the phone—though California appellate courts have not addressed employer reimbursement for personal mobile device usage post-Cochran, we have seen Cochran-inspired class actions. In Araiza v. The Scotts Company, LLC, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC570350 (filed January 26, 2015), the plaintiffs bring class claims alleging a failure to reimburse employee business expenses, in violation of Section 2802, and also allege a violation of Section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code. The plaintiffs expressly cite Cochran, arguing that Cochran requires the defendant employer to “maintain an expense reimbursement policy and/or practice stating that Defendant will affirmatively reimburse Class Members for a reasonable portion of their monthly personal cell phone bills and expenses necessarily incurred in their discharge of their duties.”

This case joins the many pre-Cochran class actions already invoking Section 2802 to claim expense reimbursement for work-related personal mobile device usage.

Cochran and cases of its ilk have many employers calling for guidance on how to reconcile their California expense reimbursement practice with their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.

We are here to help. We track all of these developments, so continue to check back here. In the meantime, we continue to encourage employers to assess their current expense reimbursement and cell phone policies and practices in light of this evolving legal landscape.

Additionally, join the authors of this post as they present a Seyfarth Shaw webinar on June 23, 2015, when they will discuss the impact of Cochran and highlight compliance issues for California employers to consider when crafting their BYOD and reimbursement policies.

Edited by Chelsea Mesa