In the case of Cochran vs. Schwan’s Home Service, a California appellate court ruled yesterday that employers in that state must reimburse employees for any work related use of a personal phone.

Now, the million dollar question is this: How much exactly needs to be reimbursed?

On this issue, the ruling is less than clear -- simply stating that “a reasonable percentage” of the employee's personal cell phone bill must be reimbursed for work-related activities on the phone, whether it's for calls, emails, applications or other uses. So, the question is begged, "What amount is reasonable?"

I am not a lawyer -- but I doubt that anyone knows the precise answer. The good news, however, for employers is that mobile workforce management software can easily identify the amount of data being utilized by an employee's personal mobile device. Such information will enable California employers to establish a clear and factual baseline from which to assess their obligation to reimburse employees.

Consider the following example:

  • A field based employee is equipped with personal mobile device and pays $60 per month for 1 gigabyte of data
  • The employee, on average, is responsible for 6 work projects per day
  • Each work project is scheduled, managed, measured and reported using a web based workforce management application
  • Each work project utilizes an average of 1 megabyte when submitted over the mobile data network
  • One week of work reports utilizes 30 megabytes -- and one month of reports utilizes 120 megabytes

Thus, the employer would be "reasonably" responsible for reimbursing the employee 12% of $60 -- or $7.20 per month.

Furthermore, the employer would have ready access to empirical data that would enable them to prove, if necessary, that their reimbursement is indeed "reasonable".

So, if you're an employer in California, and you have a "bring-your-own-device" (BYOD) mobile policy -- make sure you utilize enterprise software applications that can easily identify and allocate the amount of data utilized by business apps running on employee owned mobile devices.

Matt Howard photo
Husband and father. Software innovator, entrepreneur and marketer. My wife is my soul mate. My 3 kids are my greatest accomplishment. I love innovation and marketing. Also running, yoga, wine, Baltimore Ravens and Avalon, NJ. Sales and Marketing VP at Natural Insight. Founder & CEO of ZoomSafer. Co-founder of SMBLive. Marketing VP at Groove Networks and USinternetworking.