IL has changed rules on employee reimbursements; employers should check policies, attorney says

By John Breslin | Jan 7, 2019

CHICAGO – Employers in Illinois are being warned to check their expense reimbursement policies following the says passing of new amendments to a state act requiring them to pay "reasonable" expenses to employees, an attorney whose practice focuses on labor and employment law.

Necessary expenditures must be reimbursed under the new provisions of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Similar laws have been passed in other states, though Illinois is slightly different from some in that there is some "wriggle room" for employers, said Michael Furlong of the Chicago office of the Fisher Phillips firm.

In Illinois, Furlong said, the law allows employers to set reimbursement policies that do not cover 100 percent of the expenditure and is above the "de minimis" rule, Furlong said.

Michael Furlong   Fisher Phillips

Under the "de minimis" rule, courts may not consider any legal claim, because the amount in dispute is too small. Furlong, though, did note the threshold is not spelled out in the law.

While most employers do have reimbursement policies, Furlong said employers should carry out reviews and make sure they are in compliance because the provisions of the new law are likely to be the subject of legal actions. He noted most employers have reimbursement policies.

He added that the statute now provides employees with the opportunity to take legal action.

"The statute allows for both individual and class actions," Furlong said, adding that any amounts claimed by individuals are likely to be too small for litigation, but that they can mount up considerably with a class action.

The attorney said a provision governing reimbursement of the use of personal cellphones for work could likely face scrutiny, including in court, as judges may be asked to step in.

Many employees now have unlimited phone plans that do not differentiate between personal and work calls, he said.

The Act "applies to all employers and employees in this state, including employees of units of local government and school districts, but excepting employees of the state or federal governments."

It does not specifically detail what expenses should be reimbursed, only stating "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."

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Fisher & Phillips, LLP State of Illinois

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