QUESTION

Does the new reimbursement law in Illinois mean I have to pay for my employee’s cell phones?

SHORT ANSWER
Reimbursement of cell phone costs may be required by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act depending on the employee's duties and responsibilities.
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The reimbursement provision of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (SB2999) came into effect January 1, 2019, and requires Illinois employers to reimburse employees for necessary expenditures or losses that occur within the scope of employment.  An employer is not liable for expenses unless it authorized or required employees to incur expenses or if the employer failed to follow its own reimbursement policy.

Cell phones cause a lot of confusion for employers.  They are ubiquitous and certainly many employees use their smart phones to keep in touch with work, check work email, use google maps for traveling for work, and other conveniences.

But does your company require an employee to have a cell phone?  Is it a necessary part of their job?  Chances are if your employee does not work remotely and travel is infrequent, the answer is no—it is certainly a convenience, but not a requirement.  However, if you have employees working out of the office on a regular basis who are expected to check in and be available by phone, then the cell phone begins to creep into the “required” category.  Options to consider are an “allowance” to provide for the cost of a basic cell phone plan so that employees can choose their own phones and can opt into a more premium package, but receive reimbursement for a portion that would cover the more basic needs your company requires.