I recently opened up a new mobile phone account for my business. The wireless company gave me the ability to buy an insane number of phone lines (like 50) without a deposit, for very little per month.
I’m thinking about whether I should provide cell phones to my staff to sidestep a common issue: does the business owner have to pay for an employee’s cell phone when she uses it for business purposes.
You may be surprised to learn that the employer may be required to pay for it, even if the use of the personal cell phone for business is not expressly at the employer’s request.
As always, the law is most restrictive in California, where reimbursements for gas, mileage, phones and other expenses is required and hard for employers to control.
For me, if I decide to get cell phones for my employees, I am going to tell them it is a benefit. Employees like benefits and they don’t need to know that I am hedging against other legal risks at the same time.
Watch this video to learn a little more about cell phone reimbursement requirements for employers.
Say your employee is “out in the field” a lot and uses her cell phone.
Do you have to pay her cell phone bill?
If she is using her cell phone for business, then you likely have to pay a portion of it.
You can give her a business cell phone to use and make a policy that prohibits the use of personal cell phones for business.
Or you can determine a monthly reimbursement amount up front.
Coming up with a flat amount that approximates the split of business versus personal use of a cell phone is a good way to go.
However, incidental or minimal use of a personal cell phone for work does not have to be reimbursed by the employer.
It’s a small mistake with big consequences.
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