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By: Allyson T. Schwab

Starting January 1, 2019, 820 ILCS 115/9.5(a) requires employers to reimburse employees for “all necessary expenses that are incurred by the employee within the employee’s scope of employment and that are directly related to services performed for the employer.” “Necessary expenditures” means all reasonable expenditures or losses required of the employee in the discharge of employment duties and that inure to the primary benefit of the employer. Further:

  • the employer must have “authorized or required” the employee to incur the expense;
  • the expense request, along with appropriate documentation, must be submitted within 30 calendar days—unless a longer period is provided for under the employer’s expense reimbursement policy;
  • and the employee must provide a signed, written statement in lieu of a receipt when supporting documentation has been lost or does not exist.

There is no specific requirement that an employer must reimburse employees for cell phone expenses. The employer will need to determine if the employees’ use of their personal devices at work falls in the definition of “necessary expenditure”. If employees are required to use their personal devices for work purposes (i.e. taking work phone calls), it is likely that the expense related to that usage will require reimbursement.

As it stands now, the statute remains relatively vague, and the particulars will be hashed in the court system through litigation. However, other states like California have had similar laws in place for some time, and the courts have provided some interpretation and guidance for the application of their state-specific statute. For example, California courts have found that employers must reimburse employees who use their cell phones for work-related calls, even if the employees have unlimited phone/data plans and incur no extra expenses as a result of their cell phone usage at work. While this is obviously not binding on Illinois employers, this provides a preview of what could eventually come down in the Illinois courts.

If you are an employer in the state of Illinois, this statute is likely to affect your company in some capacity. If you or your company need further guidance on how to interpret or apply this new statute Mathis, Marifian & Richter would be happy to assist.

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