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California - Is it legal to not pay for meals while traveling?

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  • California - Is it legal to not pay for meals while traveling?

    I work for a large CA based company that is going through some belt-tightening. I'm OK with that, but the email received today (2/10) had me questioning things. I am cutting and pasting the new guidelines.

    For planned day business travel to a location beyond your normal work place, bring or pay for your own breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks.
    For planned overnight business travel, bring or pay for your own breakfast, lunch, and coffee breaks. It is OK to expense dinner.

    Is this legal to do by California's Per Diem Laws? If there is a direct reference to those laws I would appreciate it. TIA

    The other kicker was the line that "the new guidelines below are effective January 12 , going forward" and we were notified of this change on 2/10. I now have a month of expenses for meals that I have to back out and pay for out of pocket. My total will be $116.90 out of pocket, but it's the principle of the retroactive enforcement is what galls me.

    Going forward looks like I have to pack my meals. Hope I can keep an ice chest cold enough to avoid food poisoning. Enforced lodging requirements is a place that does not have refrigerators in the rooms. :-\


    TIA for any insight and comments. No one is happy with this, and oddly, it only seems to be in my one group and not across the board for all if IT or other departments. Double Grrr on the unfairness.

  • #2
    I am unaware of any law in any state that requires an employer to pay for your meals while you are traveling. After all, if you weren't traveling you'd still have to eat.

    If I am mistaken, DAW or hr for me will be able to say so.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      Maybe complicated. CLC 2802 requires employers to reimburse employees for all "necessary" business expense. "Necessary" business expenses means whatever CA-DLSE says they do. There is no CA Per Diem rule per se and the IRS rule does not say what most people try to suggest it says. IF CA-DLSE says that the employer is required to reimburse these expenses (which has not yet happened), then the employer can either use actual expense reimbursement or use the IRS Per Diem method. But no employer is ever required to use the Per Diem method (unless contract says otherwise).

      Contact CA-DLSE and see what they have to say. Or file a wage claim.

      And CA is the only state in the country with these sort of rules. The feds have rules that unreimbursed business expenses cannot impact minimum wage or overtime.
      "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
      Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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      • #4
        Thank you both for your input. That was what I was afraid of. :-\

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