Lawsuits Piling Up As Workers Seek Reimbursement For Work-From-Home Costs
When the coronavirus pandemic forced workers to turn their homes into offices, it often involved increased expenses, as employees paid for internet, electricity, phone and other costs that employers used to shoulder.
Now, workers are going after their employers, sometimes through class-action lawsuits, to get reimbursed for those added costs, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The cost shouldn’t be shifted to the employees,” Los Angeles-based attorney Joshua Haffner said. “This benefits the business.”
Haffner represents a treasury service associate at Wells Fargo Bank who is part of a lawsuit filed in August aimed at recouping work-from-home costs, including “internet, phone, personal computer, office equipment (printers, scanners, etc.), office supplies, utility bills, and/or fair value for space used as home office,” the LA Times said. These extra expenses cost her between $100 and $200 per month, Haffner said.
The LA Times combed over about a dozen of these cases, finding that the monthly costs were between $50 and $200 extra per month — perhaps affordable for some but cost-prohibitive for others as the pandemic dragged on.
The lawsuits come as employers, enthusiastic to have workers come into the office, aren't having much luck getting them there. This month, in-office numbers hit a pandemic-era high, but that high was just 42% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest Kastle Systems Back to Work Barometer.
While federal law doesn’t mandate that companies pay their employees' work-from-home expenses, California and other states have existing laws governing the matter, though California’s labor commissioner’s office hasn’t published expense reimbursement guidelines that address the pandemic specifically.
Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Fox Broadcasting, Amazon, Liberty Mutual Insurance and Visa are among the big-name companies that employees have sued looking to get repaid for the cost of being required to work out of their homes as a result of the pandemic.
The lawsuits against Wells Fargo, Fox, Amazon and Bank of America were all filed in California. The Fox Broadcasting case involves over 1,000 employees who say they were made to cover these costs, which ranged from $50 to $100 a month, Bloomberg Law reported.
The lawyer representing workers in the Amazon case told Reuters that he has filed suits against more than 20 companies, including IBM and Oracle, on behalf of workers seeking reimbursement. Some have already settled in favor of the employees and have resulted in employers agreeing to give remote workers stipends of up to $83 per month, according to Reuters.