Amazon Engineer Sues for Work From Home Costs

Like every other company, Amazon sent all employees who could work from home to work from home in 2020. But what they didn’t do was start paying for internet and electricity costs for their employees, according to a lawsuit filed by an Amazon engineer in California.

On the surface, it makes perfect sense. California law requires companies to pay all business expenses. Employees who work at home use more electricity and internet than they would if they came into the office. Therefore, the engineer has a case. At least, that’s why the judge didn’t throw it out.

Amazon argues that these expenses aren’t the company’s obligation since it wasn’t their choice to send people home: they were following the state orders to send everyone home. The law doesn’t seem to have an exception for emergencies.

My best bet? The Amazon engineer will win.

And then he and every other California employee will lose. Here’s why.

To keep reading, click here: Amazon Engineer Sues for Work From Home Costs

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6 thoughts on “Amazon Engineer Sues for Work From Home Costs

  1. All of this is once again focused on the ‘who has the power’ issues that eternally plague dialogue about the relationship between organizations and their staff. Although I agree with the Evil HR Lady’s viewpoint on the likely outcome, my own experience as a leader of thousands of talented working professionals shows me that such debates miss the essential point.

    How do we motivate adults to perform at the creativity and contribution levels which drive work satisfaction on the individual level and organizational results on the company level?

    What is the relative value of this engineer’s contribution to the Amazon’s success?

    How do the the costs he is claiming compare relative to that value?

    What is the value of his commuting cost saving compared to his increased at home costs and the value he is contributing?

    Until we get to a world where value is the focus of employer – staff dialogue, and not cost, we will never have a fully committed work force that engages professionals in satisfying work while increased the value they produce for organizations.

    Our fascination with costs, and not value, is work culture foolishness.

  2. I think employers should pay employees’ increased costs for working from home. The employer is also saving money on utilities, maintenance — and other items — when employees are working off site. And Amazon, in particular — while it may have delivery drivers having to pee in bottles and warehouse workers dropping under draconian production standards — is constantly, very publicly, patting itself on the back about all the perks available to its office workers: free meals and snacks, on-site recreation and child-care facilities, etc.

  3. Let’s put up the other part of the question, did all workplaces that allowed WFH change how much they paid their employees during the time not working in office. Of course, when everyone is home, your utilities use will be higher but there’s a savings in other costs. The only reason I see for a company to pay at home costs ( internet and utilities) is if the employees needed to use specific levels of service connections within a certain data programming requiring specialized internet access. These employees most likely weren’t even living in the same state but were/ are getting paid same salary.

    1. In this case, the reason to pay for the expenses in question is because (according to the suit) the law requires it. It is not relevant under the law whether the savings outweigh the work related costs; that is not covered. California law says that if an employee incurs costs associated with the job, the employer must reimburse them. That is not in dispute. All that is in dispute is whether or not the law applies when the employer has no choice but to have people work from home.

      As the article points out, there being no exception in it for the circumstances, it probably does. Amazon has lots of lawyers, but unless this is settled quickly, it will very likely involve California’s labor board, who also have lots of lawyers, and decades of experience at nailing companies to a cross (which they *love* doing).

  4. Greedy fools like this will ruin job flexibility for the rest of us. I hope he loses. And gets fired.

  5. Called it. In 2020 I argued that companies would start using WFH to force workers to subsidize business costs. Most people aren’t aware of the actual costs of doing business–sewage, water, coffee, light bulbs, etc. When WFH was a perk, and one with a high bar, that’s fine; I’m willing to pay those costs in order to have the option of doing my data entry in my pajamas. When it becomes standard, however, those costs start adding up quickly–as my Minerology professor said, anything times ten to the 9th becomes significant. If you’re working from home occasionally, or because YOU choose to do so, that may be worth it. If you’re doing it because you are obliged, it may not be.

    If a company does something you can assume it’s in their best interest. WFH is not an exception. If you’re working from home, it’s because you’re either saving money or earning money for them.

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