Employers Must Reimburse Mileage

Automobile expenses, like the mileage you put on your car running job-related errands or driving to meetings from work, are reimbursable. So too are expenses employees incur in fixing their car after accidents that happened while the employee was driving on company business.

The Law

California Labor Code section 2802 is the operative statute for mileage wage claims. It states:

An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.

Interpreting Labor Code section 2802, the Labor Commissioner has held that automobile expenses, like mileage and any loss or damage to an employee’s automobile that occurs while the employee is driving on company business, are reimbursable.

The current reimbursement rate for mileage in California is whatever rate is set by the IRS. For 2010, the IRS mileage rate is $0.50 per mile.

The Consequences

If you incurred mileage driving your car for company business, you must be paid for it. The same is true if you were involved in an automobile accident while driving on company business — your employer has to pay for that too.

Under California law, you can go back as many as four years to recover unpaid mileage expenses (and expenses for car wrecks that occurred on company business). You can file a claim to recover mileage expenses with the California Labor Commissioner or in civil court. Be advised that there are differences between claims brought with the California Labor Commissioner and in civil court. For instance, if you file your claim in civil court, you are entitled to your attorney fees if you prevail. You may want to hire an experienced wage claim attorney to help you with your claim for unpaid mileage expenses.