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CA Employers Not Required To Reimburse Employee For Safety Shoes That May Be Used Outside Of Work

On July 8, 2019, the California Court of Appeals held an employer need not reimburse an employee for safety shoes despite the employer's requirement employees wear slip-resistent safety shoes. The Court held employer are not required to reimburse employees for safety shoes employees are required to wear, but are "generally usable" in other circumstances.

Plaintiff Krista Townley worked as a server for Defendant BJ’s Restaurants. BJ’s had a safety policy that required all hourly employees to wear black, slip-resistant, close-toed shoes. No specific brand, style, or shoe design was required. Townley purchased a pair of shoes to comply with BJ’s policy and was not reimbursed for the cost of the shoes. BJ’s had a policy of not reimbursing employees for compliant shoes. Townley filed a PAGA lawsuit for failure to reimburse employees for required shoes. The trial court granted BJ’s motion for summary judgment. Townley appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

Labor Code §2802 requires employers to reimburse employees for various work-related expenses, including for uniforms and protective apparel required by OSHA. The Court of Appeal held that Townley’s shoes were not part of a uniform and were generally usable in the restaurant occupation. Therefore, BJ’s was not required to reimburse Townley and other employees for the shoes.

This is an unfortunate ruling that will deprive California employees of reimbursement expenses for clothing items employers deem "generally usable." California employees should be concerned employers may attempt to expand this decision to apply to other expenses incurred by employees on behalf of their employer.

If you have questions regarding this case or rights of California employees to expense reimbursement, please contact Christopher Taylor at chris@taylorlaborlaw or (626) 219-6008.

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