Let’s Talk Stipend
Do your employees use their personal devices for any work-related activity? If so, they may be entitled to a data reimbursement.
An employee stipend is a predetermined amount of money that is provided periodically to offset expenses. Typically, nontaxable and usually not related to wage and hour laws.
What We Do Know.
Device Legislation Is The Wild Wild West At Best.
For years California labor law attorneys have made money by suing employers for wage an hour infraction. As lines blur between personal and work time some of these attorneys have attempted to profit from expenses related to the everyday devices we use. However, they have not found the same bounty of traction in this area.
Case in point, only 2 major stipend violation cases are highlighted, and both have targeted suits on fortune 500 mega companies as class action for paying No stipend.
Additional confusion abounds about what to pay because the legislature states the re-imbursement must be reasonable. The State of California has refused to rule on exactly what reasonable reimbursement is. Some case references and law are below.
Castro vs AMB
Cochran vs Schwan
Should You Or Shouldn’t You Offer A Stipend?
Judging by the two cases cited above it may be worth discussing a stipend especially if you are in California. If the factory lawsuit firms in the golden state work their way into Sacramento this could be a bonanza like the way they were able to line their pockets by abusing meal period violations.
In the case of meal period lawsuits, some law firms specialize and use marketing departments to enlist anyone who did not get a lunch. In California between April and August 2019 there were over 1,000 meal period lawsuits filed.
But the stipend legislation has not gotten here yet.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
In summary, there precedent and prevailing law for re-imbursement. Reasonable rates of reimbursement are yet undefined. Stipends can be tax exempt. Stipend laws can exist outside traditional wage and hour claims. There are only a limited number of cases, and these cases were for NOT paying any stipend at all.
In these cases, employers were asking employees to use their phones or internet enabled devices to:
Receive Work Related Calls Or Texts
Communicate Work Related Information Like Pictures, Videos, Reports Or Recordings
Receive Notifications And Alerts
Upload Personal Documents
Getting Directions And Or Use Navigation Features
View Training Videos
Use A Timekeeping App
Access Google Or Cloud Work Documents
Any Work-Related Action
As we intertwine our digital work and personal lives more cases will surely arise. If your employee device relationship checks any of the boxes above, it might be time to consider a device or cell phone stipend.