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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 39031
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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My company gives us company cars and we work out of the home

Resolved Question:

My company gives us company cars and we work out of the home with no offices in California where I live. I work in LA and now they want to charge us for personal use of the company to car to drive to our first account of the day and home from the last account at night. Can they charge us for personal use of the company car when they won't let us use our personal cars???
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 5 years ago.
If you are using an employer's vehicle, and you work from home in an office provided for the benefit of your employer, then your first drive of the day is not commuter mileage, because you are leaving from your place of employment.

Under Cal. Labor Code 2802, an employer must reimburse an employee for all costs incurred within the scope of employment. If your drive is for your employer's benefit, then the empoyer must foot the bill, not you.

If the employer starts deducting from your pay in order to cover the drive time, then you can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner at this link.

Hope this helps.

And, if you need to contact me again, please put my user id on the title line of your question (“ToCustomerrdquo;), and the system will send me an alert. Thanks!

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Is there a California Labor Code that specifically mentions company cars and working from a home office? What is the requirement to be working out of a home office? We get all our test equipment and tools/manuals for a our job sent to our homes, as well as parts and other various work items. Is this enough to qualify as "working from home"? We do not have an office in LA, everyone works from home and I believe that is what the company considers our official place of work.

My employer is trying to say that they've researched federal laws and are allowed to charge us for the company car. I tried to say that state laws don't allow that but the boss wants to see something that points to company cars and not just a generic statute such as 2802.
Expert:  socrateaser replied 5 years ago.
Unfortuately, there is no controlling California Code section on point to your question.

However, Federal law is not controlling in California, because California law is more protective of employee rights.

In the very recent case of Forrand v. Fed. Express Corp., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 544 (9th Cir. Cal. Jan. 5, 2011), the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in interpreting California law, affirmed that with respect to paying employees for hours worked: that: "Under California law it is the level of the employer's control over its employees that is determinative."

This ruling makes certain things obvious:

1. Since the leading federal court in the Western USA gives more precedent to California labor law than to federal law in determining employee rights, it would be absurd to suggest that federal law controls this issue -- even though no California court has weighed in on the same issue as of yet.

2. If the employer's level of control is determinative of the requirement to pay for the employee's hours, then it would be equally absurd to conclude that during the same time, the employer would not be liable for the employee's expenses, which under Labor Code 2802(a) must be indemnified when "incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer."

The issue in your case is that you state you "work from home." If you actually engage in work for your employer in your home, then your driving from home to another work location is not commuter milege, because you are acting under the direction of your employer in traveling to the job. If you do not engage in any work activities at home, then the travel is arguably commuter mileage, and the employer can reduce your hourly wage to compensate for the cost of the vehicle. useage.

This area of California labor law remains in considerable dispute, wherever no court ruling or Code section controls.

The Department Industrial Relations proposed regulations in 2006 to resolve inconsistencies in this area (see link). Howeer, for political reasons, hese regulations have never been formally enacted -- so they have no force of law.

Hope this helps.

And, if you need to contact me again, please put my user id on the title line of your question (“ToCustomerrdquo;), and the system will send me an alert. Thanks!

socrateaser and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you