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Forcing employees to incur personal expenses Florida

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  • Forcing employees to incur personal expenses Florida

    Last month I started a new job for a boutique consulting firm in Florida. It is small and I'm the first official "employee" it has -- the other 10 or so consultants are independent contractors that have worked there for years under a revenue share (as opposed to salary) model. The company is now in the process of figuring out how to make everybody an employee.

    When I came on board, my employer told me that I have to have a Blackberry phone, equipped with Cingular's international unlimited data plan, and that it would pay usage charges for business expenses. I offered to buy a separate phone for work so that I could submit the entire bill once a month for reimbursement. The employer declined and told me to just separate the business-related expenses each month.

    So now I'm forced to carry a Blackberry (for which I paid) as both my personal and business phone. The upgrade in my cellular plan adds about $90 a month (after taxes) to the plan. The company told me the additional charges to cover the upgraded base plan is my responsibility, and cited the fact that the other consultants (contractors) do it the same way.

    Last week I received my first Bill from Cingular. To my surprise, on a business trip that had me overseas for 2 days last month, I incurred charges from Cingular for calls routed to my cell phone even though I didn't answer the calls (their excuse is that they had to route the call through another carrier overseas for the phone to even ring). The total charges were only about $40. Most of these calls were from friends/relatives...but while I intentionally didn't answer the calls when they came in, I did incur the expenses -- which would not have been the case had I not been traveling on business.

    I submitted the $40 charge on my expense report, only to be pulled into the CEO's office. I was lectured about my unethical behavior in trying to seek reimbursements for personal expenses and called a "penny pincher." My reaction to the CEO of my company was "you might want to either consider a per-diem model, or look into employment regulations in Florida moving forward," to which he firmly told to me to drop the matter and to not expense the item again. I am hurt by the lack of trust and accusatory nature of the meeting.

    I started my professional career in California where employees are afforded quite a bit of protection. Section 2802 of the California labor code states that employers have to reimburse employees for expenses (broadly defined to include all types of expenses) incurred in the course of employment. In fact, a recent ruling there was in favor of an employee who was forced to have a dual-purpose cell phone. In California employees are paid a salary/wage to perform work that falls within a certain scope. All expenses related to that work are effectively the responsibility of the employer.

    It seems to me that if an employer forces you to have a particular cell phone, forces you to have a particular plan for that cell phone, forces you to keep that as a dual-purpose phone, and forces you to keep that cell phone on when you're traveling so you can take business calls, then any other charges that you incur and that are completely out-of-your control as a result of that arrangement should be paid by the employer.

    So far, my research doesn't point to Florida labor laws protecting employees the same way that laws in California do. Am I wrong about this? Are there any specific employment laws in Florida that would protect the employee in a situation like this? If so, what specific law is it and what does it say?

    I'm very nervous about this because my job will have me traveling 100% of the time soon. The out-of-my-control expenses related to the cell phone issue alone could add up to well over $400 a month once I start traveling that much. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    The only state I'm aware of in which employers must reimburse employees for business expenses is California. Unfortunately, you're now in Florida, which has some of the weakest employment laws in the U.S. Florida eliminated its Department of Labor several years ago and defaults to federal law on many issues. Federal law is silent on the issue of business expenses.

    You may be entitled to a deduction for unreimbursed business on your income taxes.
    I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

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    • #3
      And how were you "forced" to use the same phone for personal and business? Why can't you simply have a personal plan (that you are solely responsible for....I'm not even sure why your boss would even need to know that you have a personal phone) and your business phone? Your friends and family would just need to be told to contact you on your personal phone #.
      HOOK 'EM HORNS!!!
      How do you catch a very rare rabbit?
      (unique up on him)
      How do catch an ordinary rabbit?
      (same way)

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