Court of Appeal:
Governmental Entity Need Not Reimburse Employees for Use of Own Equipment
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Governmental entities, unlike private employers, need not provide recompense to employees who are called upon to use their own equipment in carrying out their assigned tasks, Div. One of the Court of Appeal for this district has held.
Justice Victoria Chaney of Div. One authored the opinion, filed Tuesday. It affirms a judgment of dismissal which followed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl’s sustaining of a demurred without leave to amend.
Patrick Krug, a biology professor at California State University (“CSU”) at Los Angeles, sued carrying CSU’s Board of Trustees in a putative class action when he was denied reimbursement for the cost of a computer and other equipment he had to purchase when faculty members were ordered to provide instruction remotely and he was not allowed to bring home his classroom equipment. He invoked Labor Code §2802(a) which provides:
“ 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….”
“Absent express words or positive indicia to the contrary, a governmental agency is not within the general words of a statute. Although this exemption is limited to cases where application of the statute would impair the entity’s sovereignty, subjecting CSU to Labor Code section 2802 in this case would do so because it would infringe on the broad discretion CSU enjoys under the Education Code to set its own equipment reimbursement policies.”
The jurist rejected Krug’s argument that the statute refers to an “employer,” CSU is an “employer,” hence the statute applies to it. She specified that “governmental agencies are not included within a general word such as ‘employer.’ ”
She went on to say:
“Applying section 2802 to CSU in this case would thus infringe upon its sovereign governmental powers in two ways. It would limit the discretion vested in CSU to establish policies for employee reimbursement for necessary expenses, and would potentially divert limited educational funds from CSU’s core function to pay not only legal judgments but potentially huge additional amounts to outside parties.
“Because section 2802 is silent about whether the term “employer” includes public employers, and there being no positive indicia to the contrary, its potential to infringe on CSU’s sovereignty under the circumstances of this case compels us to conclude it does apply to Krug’s claim for reimbursement for equipment expenses. CSU’s demurrer to this claim was therefore properly sustained without leave to amend.”
Payment for Goods
Chaney noted that “reimbursement is not the same as acquisition,” explaining:
“We would not, for example, suggest that CSU may refuse to pay for the goods or services it acquires.”
Krug also set forth a cause of action under the Labor Code’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), to which Kuhl also sustained a demurrer without leave to amend. Chaney said:
“Because CSU did not violate section 2802, Krug is not an aggrieved employee for purposes of PAGA. His PAGA claim therefore fails with his section 2802 claim.”
The case is Krug v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, 2023 S.O.S. 3219.
San Fernando Valley attorney Ari. J. Stiller joined with Jennifer Kramer and Shoshee Jau Hui of the mid-Wilshire firm of Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh and with Catherine J. Coble and Beth Gunn of the Atwater Village firm of Gunn Coble in representing Krug. Julie R. Trotter, Jacqueline Beaumont, and Melinda Evans of the Newport Beach firm of Call & Jensen acted for CSU.
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