Can having a cell phone and using it for work be a required and unreimbursed condition of employment?

My daughter was hired as an hourly regular employee of a small, regional, retail store. She was recently promoted to assistant manager, and was given paperwork detailing key procedures and such. She is still hourly, and her rate was increased by a few cents. Her manager told her that she is required to have her cell phone ON and on her person whenever she is on shift. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but she has a prepaid phone. She has asked about getting reimbursed, but was told they don’t do that. Is this legal? If she complains to the DOL, can they fire her?

Asked on August 1, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is completely legal. Employers can set the terms of conditions of work, which could include providing--and having employees pay for, without reimbursement--cell phones, computers, internet service, vehicles, gasoline, uniforms, tools, etc. If your daughter does not do this or complains about it, the employer could terminate her. She may be able to get some tax deduction for the phone as a business expense, and so should keep any/all receipts to bring to a tax preparer at the end of the year.

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