Must a California Employer Reimburse Employees for Mileage?

When employees travel for business purposes, they may have to spend some money on travel as well as on meals, entertainment and lodging. Depending on state laws, the employer may or may not have to reimburse employees for such expenses -- if they do not receive reimbursement, employees may be able to write them off on their federal taxes. California employers must reimburse employees for travel expenses.

  1. Necessary Expenses

    • California Labor Code Section 2802 requires employers to reimburse employees for all "necessary expenses" that they incur in the course of doing business. This includes reimbursing employees for meals, incidental expenses and travel -- including mileage -- if the employee must travel outside of the office for business purposes. However, travel must be necessary for business for the employer to reimburse the employee.

    Commuting Exception

    • In most cases, the daily commute from the office to home is not considered business travel because the employee makes the trip on a regular basis. However, if a California employee works from home rather than out of the office, the employee is entitled to reimbursement for mileage if she goes to the office to attend a conference, assist other workers or for any other work-related reason, as she does not ordinarily travel to the office.

    Mileage Rate

    • California uses the federal mileage reimbursement rate, which is 51 cents per mile at the time of publication. For example, if an employee travels 300 miles each way to attend a required conference, the employer must pay him $306 as a mileage reimbursement for the round trip. If an employer pays an employee less than the federal rate, he must be able to prove that the employee's vehicle expenses were extraordinarily small. For instance, if an employee has a vehicle with unusually good gas mileage, the employer may be able to reimburse her less because she buys less gas. Employees should keep track of their mileage in a log so that their employers can properly reimburse them for mileage.

    Employee Cannot Waive

    • California employees cannot waive the right to mileage reimbursement. Even if an employee signs a written statement upon being hired stating that she accepts that her employer will not reimburse her for travel costs, the employer is still legally required to reimburse her for her mileage; and if the employer does not do so, the employee can sue him for his failure to reimburse her mileage.

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