back to article Engineer sues Amazon for not covering work-from-home internet, electricity bills

Amazon's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit, brought by one of its senior software engineers, asking it to reimburse workers for internet and electricity costs racked up while working from home in the pandemic, has been rejected by a California judge. David George Williams sued his employer for refusing to foot his monthly home …

  1. Eecahmap

    Is Amazon required to pay for commuting costs for office workers? Clothing costs? Unlikely.

    Are those higher or lower than the $50/month requested for home internet and electricity?

    Paying for home internet and electricity seems a fair trade for the wasted time and resources spent commuting and dressing up to be in a communal office.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hopefully Amazon will subpoena his ISP bills and traffic reports and find that 99% of the traffic into/out of his network was Youtube, or Pornhub.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Hi Mr Bezos.

        I thought i was good at posting controversial opinions here, but i take my hat off to you, defending THAT company

        Also, the percentage doesn't matter unless he is charged by the *byte... if so, then the 'only 10% of this was work related' has merit. I do pay thusly. The 500Gb allowance per month is less than 25% of the bill, so even if it was 99% pornhub, amazon would be on the hook for 3/4 of the bill.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          I disagree.

          If he had the broadband agreement prior to working from home, and was already using it, then his costs have not been increased by Amazon and they have nothing to pay.

          If he had to increase his data cap because of additional work data, then Amazon are liable for at most the increase in the cap, potentially less.

          Also, who on earth has a data cap on their broadband these days?

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >Also, who on earth has a data cap on their broadband these days?

            It's the USA not the UK...

          2. MrDamage Silver badge

            It doesn't have to be a data cap, could be a bandwidth plan he had to upgrade to.

            1. C 7

              This was what I had to do, and though it would've been nice if my employer reimbursed me for it, the $40 or $50 increase in ISP costs and increase in electric/heating costs was probably about a wash with my fuel savings, not even taking into account my time. Getting 2-2.5 hours/day of my life back AND saving the fuel costs more than made up for my increased spend on internet/power/gas service.

              My previous 200Mbps plan would've been fine, except it's Comcast so uploads were limited to something like 10Mbps. To get to 25Mbps upload speeds, I had to upgrade to their 1Gbps plan for $100/month.

          3. hoola Silver badge

            This is not just about Internet costs, it is about the additional power usage moving from the office to working from home.

            Any benefit from not commuting is supplementary. Crucially, not everyone had expensive commutes. It is this last point that really winds me up. My commuting costs were negligible as I cycled to work. When we moved to WFH as a result of the pandemic, we just sucked it up and in the UK took the tax relief. Now skip forward and the organisation I worked for decreed that all support staff would now be WFH. In their new WFH policy it explicitly stated that WFH reduced everyone's commuting costs and we would all be better off. There was nothing to contribute to any additional costs as a result of WFH. They then disposed of some buildings to reduce costs.

            1. andy gibson

              My commute was the same. 20 minute train journey, trains frequent (every 15 mins) and never packed and ticket was just £5 return.

              Some days I'd vary it with a beer or meal after work in town too. I definitely now feel mentally worse off WFH, not to mention financially. Dreading winter when I have to have the heating on all day.

              1. dr john

                So how much electricity will you get for not spending that £5 each day?

                How does that compare to the power used by a laptop - hint, my charger says it is 65 watts, and I can run it to charge, then unplug and run it for three or four hours with no problems, and often run it for longer before plugging it in again.

                How does that compare to what the router uses - can't see a number on it unfortunately.

                What does that meal in town cost, compared to cooking at home?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Bezos? stupid but, I'll grant you, funny.

          I work from home. I used to work in an office, and even with my ssh, rdp, https, voice calls, meets meetings, teams meetings and downloaded pdf documents, that didn't push us over our download limit. Additionally, even if I had to pay for additional usage, it would still be less than I was paying for transportation to and from the office.

          Amazon should also subpoena his personal email to find out how many times he said he liked working from because not having to commute made it all worthwhile.

        3. Bryan W

          A wee bit entitled, but...

          If this guy wins his suit, I want my fuel and vehicle costs and paid time for sitting in traffic back too. Let's have these arseholes demanding a return to office run that invoice through their accounting departments and see if they're still singing that tune.

      2. John70

        Wouldn't it depend on whether the viewing was on personal computer or work computer?

      3. xyz123 Bronze badge

        Just because it was pornhub doesn't mean he wasn't tasked with finding videos for Bezos.....

      4. Necrohamster
        Facepalm

        "Hopefully Amazon will subpoena his ISP bills and traffic reports and find that 99% of the traffic into/out of his network was Youtube, or Pornhub."

        I don't know how it works on your home planet, but here on Earth our ISPs don't send an itemized bill containing all the sites we visited this month...

    2. LazLong

      The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

      Commuting is not part of actual work. If they had to use their car to visit clients, then yes, CA law requires reimbursement.

      What about use of their domicile as office space? That also should be reimbursed. This is especially pertinent to employers who have decided they like not having to pay for office space and all that goes with it.

      Amazon is simply displaying the increased trend over the last 50+ years to compensate employees less and redistribute wealth upward to the maximum extent they can get away with. Fuck them.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

        I agreed with every part of your comment, except for the last sentence. Reason? Cooties ;-)

      2. NATTtrash

        Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

        "What about use of their domicile as office space?"

        Please do not assume your own national situation as default.

        In my local situation this can be answered legally and financially with a yes, as are other costs connected with the execution of ones profession/ assignments as described in the article. As has happened before here on El Reg, there are more sides to a coin, and we do not all live in the country that invented Uber...

      3. jmch Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

        Amazon didn't order the stay-at-home, that was the government. But, equally, Amazon could have put staff on furlough, extended leave, paid leave, whatever... it was Amazon's decision to require working during the stay-at-home.

        Whether people forced to stay at home saved anything on commuting expenses is irrelevant. If the employer doesn't reimburse commuting costs (and what employer does??), then as far as the employer is concerned, it's completely the employee's responsibility. Ergo any savings made by the employee are also not the employer's concern.

        The one thing that is a reasonable exemption is that Amazon should be on the hook only for proportional use. Eg using 10% of your apartment space during working days only, Amazon should pay 1/10 of 5/7 of rent. Using broadband for half your waking working day, Amazon should pay 1/2 of 5/7 of subscription etc. The $50-$100 / mth mentioned does not seem unreasonable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

          If the employer doesn't reimburse commuting costs (and what employer does??), then as far as the employer is concerned, it's completely the employee's responsibility

          Or you could look at it as, the employer sets the pay for a particular job at a level that a potential employee considers sufficient, including expenses incurred in travel to & from the place of employment. It may not be directly reimbursed, but if the pay isn't sufficient then the commute isn't affordable.

          By being allowed to work from home - even some of the time - the employee effectively gets a pay rise (dependent of course on the cost of commuting etc.)

          Now, instead of physically commuting, the cost of "getting to work" involves electronic "commuting". I seriously doubt that most workers would be worse off under such circumstances unless they happen to live within walking distance of the office, which I gather is highly unusual in the US.

          1. Adelio Silver badge

            Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

            The issue is that some employers are now arguing to pay less money unless they work in the office.

        2. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

          I mostly agree, but I must quibble with your 5/7ths baseline. We all know that Amazon tries to extract maximum work for minimum expenditure, and I somehow doubt that they are holding their employees to a 40-hour (5-day) work week. That 71% (5/7ths) should probably be 85%, and may well be (on a case-by-case basis) 100%.

          1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

            -- We all know that Amazon tries to extract maximum work for minimum expenditure, --

            Sounds like most employers (government excepted) or me when shopping.

        3. NoneSuch Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

          " If the employer doesn't reimburse commuting costs (and what employer does??)"

          NASA. Transport costs to the ISS.

          1. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

            Re: The law is the law, hurrah hurrah

            Yes, but NASA doesn't pay the astronauts for the drive from their house to the launchpad, so it's really no different from a salesman's job where the company pays for travel time from the office to client locations but not from hlme to the office.

    3. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Clothing costs absolutely. Commuting costs, absolutely.

    4. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

      In large parts of Europe, workers are compensated for traveling expenses.

      It's just that in the US workers usually.have zero rights and think that's normal.

      It's not. Neither is not having universal healthcare or going in debt for 100k to get an education.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Travelling as day-to-day commuting or travelling from base (home or office as appropriate) to some other work site?

        As regards commuting costs, I'd reckon trading those for household expenses a definite win for working at home. This guy is opening a can of worms.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Travelling as day-to-day commuting. At least in my case.

          I could (and still can) claim 27¢ per km travelled for home-work. In the days that I worked at the office, this amounted to a fairly tidy €30 per day before tax, which was pretty much all profit if I decided to cycle in on my ebike.

          And I agree on the can of worms thing. Working from home is a win-win; if companies have to start paying people to stay at home (as opposed to just saving a bunch on office space) then they'll start weighing the odds, and may well end up mandating that employees come back to the office - in which case everybody loses. The company, the employee and the environment.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            €30 / 0.27c = a 110km (70 mile) round trip. Well done, even on an e-bike :-)

            On the other hand, here in the UK, "travel to and from work" is very, very rarely reimbursed, though "travel as part of the job" is (though some care workers have had to fight for this (see first FAQ item)). A job is worth a certain amount (in general) and if you choose to live further away than a colleague, unless you have some extremely in-demand skills, few companies could justify subsidising your personal lifestyle choices.

            I commute about 90 miles a day. It works for me (just about) because when I got this job it would have been very difficult to move: the children were all settled in good schools and moving closer to my place of work would have moved my wife significantly further from hers. We also like the village we live in, and appreciate being close to elderly relatives and fairly good transport links.

            A colleague who is my "twin" at work gets exactly the same pay, but has a daily commute of under 20 miles. That's his choice. At current prices it's costing me about two grand a year to commute, he pays well under £500. I don't expect my employer to make up the difference!

            M.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Travelling as day-to-day commuting. At least in my case."

            So if you decide to move much further away where housing is cheaper your employer will pay the extra travelling cost you can live more cheaply?

            1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

              Yes. You understand it perfectly.

            2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Correct.

          3. GuldenNL

            UK isn’t EU

            I’m the Netherlands. I was taxed for the mileage distance from my office. Seems the UK is subsidizing the increase in traffic and pollution. The Netherlands is doing just the opposite.

            1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

              Re: UK isn’t EU

              Maybe taxed, but also compensated.

              1. GuldenNL

                Re: UK isn’t EU

                No, there is no compensation for commuters. The Dutch tax form has your work address and your home address and you are taxed on the distance.

                I have no idea how it works for salespeople who work from home. I am stating a very old tax law for office workers.

              2. NATTtrash

                Re: UK isn’t EU

                Maybe taxed, but also compensated.

                I don't understand why this was downvoted here, because this is indeed true (Dutch HMRC info in Dutch). Looks like there is a bit of Dutch wishful thinking going on here claiming a simple no. From my (limited) time in NL, I do know that all cloggers were always hunting for a company car, and then were pissed off if their government saw that as income and taxed them on it. And thus, many do all kinds of creative book keeping to show that they just used it professionally.

                Then again, it is the only country I know where HMRC sends you an already completely filled out tax declaration, with all amounts, including income, property valuations, savings, other capital of you and your partner have, asking you to just sign it and move on. "Resistance is futile" apparently. Relieved it doesn't apply to me any more, but do feel for my (former) Dutch colleagues who decided to work outside NL, and seem to be tracked and hounded by Dutch HMRC continiously.

          4. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Which country would that be where your employer _pays_ for your commute? Plenty of cases where it is tax deductible, for example in Germany, so your cost of commmuting comes out of your untaxed salary, not your salary after taxes.

            1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

              Countres I know of The Netherlands and Switzerland.

              1. Fred Daggy Bronze badge

                In Switzerland, the cost of public transport is claimable. And is car where it would save more than 1 hour each way or was outside of sociable hours

                Private car commutes, where a socially acceptable public transport route exists are NOT claimable.

            2. A Nother Handle

              It's happened to me in the UK. My employer struck a deal with the local bus company to give staff free travel between the city centre and the out-of-town business park. Some people who lived on the other side of the city incurred the expense of getting to the first bus stop but in my case I just walked.

        2. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

          Travelling as day-to-day commuting or travelling from base (home or office as appropriate) to some other work site?

          Yes. Day to day commutes are compensated. As is a percentage of internet expenses. Usually the company either provides equipment for home office or contributes financially.

          If these rights are embedded in legislation, there is no can of worms to open.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Day to day commutes are compensated...If these rights are embedded in legislation, there is no can of worms to open."

            In what legislation? This would certainly not be the case in the UK (if commuting costs to a regular place of work were covered it would be taxable*) and as far as I know not in the US. If this were to lead to WFH to be withdrawn by employers there might be people looking out for this guy and wielding attitude adjustment tools.

            * Another can of worms for freelancers.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              @Doctor Syntax

              "If this were to lead to WFH to be withdrawn by employers there might be people looking out for this guy and wielding attitude adjustment tools."

              Agreed. I consider it a perk of my job to work from home on my own PC I provide, my own internet connection I pay for etc. All because it works out much better than sitting in traffic to visit a building to do the same thing I can do in the comfort of my own home. WFH isnt for everyone I am well aware but for some it truly is a perk.

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          >This guy is opening a can of worms.

          Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Judge is happy to give the go-ahead. Also, with some companies wanting to reduce pay to those working from home, this case does suggest the cost/benefits aren't so simple.

          If the case was being heard in the UK, I suspect the final judgement will balance the additional home costs against the commuting costs and make a judgement that means companies might not have to pay WfH employees home office expenses, they will have to take these additional costs (*) into consideration in determining any WfH arrangement, so that the WfH employee isn't financially disadvantaged.

          (*) Which may include someone having to resize their accommodation to allow for a suitable WfH space.

          1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            I would strongly suspect that post pandemic a large part of the decision would be based on choice vs lack of choice.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        In large parts of Europe, workers are compensated for traveling expenses

        Clarify "travelling expenses" ?

        In the UK, it is accepted that expenses paid to an employee to travel between work locations is not taxable. But if an employer makes any contribution to "commuting" costs then that is taxable. Commuting is travel between your normal residence and your normal place of work. There are some special rules for where there isn't a regular place of work - such as care workers who go directly from home to a client's home, then to other clients' homes, and finally back home.

        But back to the original story, it's unfortunate for the employer in this case. I know I've saved a lot in time and money by not commuting for the last couple of years, and a colleague who travelled further reckoned he was saving £200/mo in diesel (and that was before the cost rocketed). For me, I pay for my internet regardless (it's unmetered so doesn't matter how much or little I use it) so there's no extra cost there, and the extra costs from lecky and heating are well less than I'd be paying for petrol so I'm happy that I'm not losing anything. And my employer said from the outset that they wouldn't be providing any allowances for WFH except in special cases which would be considered on a case by case basis (and I've not actually heard of any claims being made). They did provide a desk, chair, and some other kit needed - and I'm fortunate in having enough space to setup a "permanent" home office in the spare bedroom, it's only an issue when we have guests.

        1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

          Clarify "travelling expenses" ?

          Commuting to/from work.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Where?

            As Simon has said, and I've said above, this is most definitely not the norm in the UK and would be taxable if it were paid for.

        2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

          In Norway, tax deductions are available for commuting to work.

          https://www.skatteetaten.no/en/person/taxes/get-the-taxes-right/employment-benefits-and-pensions/travel-home-work/travel-deduction/

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Same in France:

            You can claim a fixed 10% tax rebate or sit down every year and calculate your "frais reël". Based on your professional mileage, including to/from work, and an annual government factor based on your vehicule's fiscal horsepower. (Which is like an insurance group.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              In the UK the idea of paying for people to travel to work is never going to happen because of the environmental cost of transport, long commutes are rightly discouraged. There are help to buy loan schemes for Bicycles, but that’s it.

              There was even some talk of taxing people who drive to work if the employer provides free parking on site.

        3. CommanderGalaxian
          Headmaster

          "In the UK, it is accepted that expenses paid to an employee to travel between work locations is not taxable,,,"

          Only up to 45 pence per mile. Any mileage related expenses over 45p per mile are taxable.

          1. Bultark

            Even then the 45p (first 10k miles and 25p for anything over that) are 'guidelines' and not the law. My employer pays a flat rate of 16p per mile - they provide us with a 'car allowance' and claim that covers the rest. But they're completely wrong on this but accept that as they would have to pay out more to employees. (Have spoken to several accountants about this subject (pence per mile vs Car allowance))

            I'm fortunately enough though that my home is classed as my office, so the moment I step out of the house to drive anywhere for work it is paid for (be it to one of our offices or client's).

            So each year I do a self assessment - I'm not higher rate tax payer - but to get tax relief on the difference in mileafe paid to claim relief on £6 per week working from home. It's not much but it helps.

        4. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

          My company did the same. The only out of pocket for me was I had a table made to use as an office desk, 600USD, made of a very nice walnut and sized to be comfortable for my 6ft 4in frame. It's far more comfortable than the crap desk I was stuck with in the office. I don't mind paying the extra juice and my internet connection cost the same before and after, but I really like saving the now hindreds of dollars in fuel costs as well as the 8 hours a week in commuting costs. Of, and forgot, had to pay for parking as well - parking in my driveway costs nothing. I could even do away with my work vehicle if I wanted, were it not a pickup truck that I also use to work on my land. 20 acres in the sticks, love it.

      3. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

        And we don't pay those huge tax bills, have a VAT, ect.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "going in debt for 100k to get an education."

        The government got into the business of guaranteeing student loans and that tossed a really big spanner into the works. When I went to school, it took me a bit longer, but I didn't have or need loans. I looked not to long ago into what it would cost to get a masters in nuclear physics at a good uni and it was close to $200k. I'm too old to ever see any return on that investment. What I'd like to find is how much it would have cost had I just kept on after getting my engineering degrees instead of diving into a manufacturing career.

    5. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      I'd be very surprised to find that his costs increased by $50/month. No increase on the internet as that's a flat rate per month, and power? Well...maybe. He's going to have to provide some hard numbers to convince me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        He is opening a can of worms...

        For me my internet has no cap. I am however probably paying over the odds as I'm paying for a guaranteed connection.

        I've solar panels so over the year my costs balance out. The amount I get paid for unused power is 4p per kWh.

        I'm saving at least 300 on car insurance a year as I'm traveling less.

        Petrol savings are 250 to 300 a month.

        Then there is also the corresponding saving on less car maintenance. So one less major service a year plus tyres replaced way less frequently.

        I've bought equipment that I use for work but I'd probably have bought it for myself in any case. This way I get to keep it and use it on my own projects.

    6. davidchill57

      Your post is irrelevant whataboutism.

    7. Number6

      Another thing to consider is that if you're working for 8 hours a day and you spend another two commuting, your effective hourly rate is reduced in proportion because you're getting paid for ten hours of your time rather than 8, unless your commute is such that you consider it useful time. I figure near-zero commute costs plus 90 minutes extra me time per day makes up for any additional expenses at home. However, I'm lucky enough to have the space and the equipment for working from home (my home workshop has pretty much the same facilities as I have at work), not everyone is in that position.

    8. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

      It is, and I'm not complaining one bit for having to spend 20 bucks a month more for electricity to work at home. Going into the office means an extra 8 hours of week commuing making my 10 hour workday into a 12 hour workday at 10 hours pay, 32 gallons of fuel per week, and having to maintain office-suitable attire. My internet costs are the same either way. Yes, I really want to whine about spending 20 bucks a month when it's saving me hundreds each month. And that's just the financial savings, it doesn't cover the more valuable benefits of not having to put up with my co-workers constantly whinging on about their personal lJerry Springer-esque lives.

    9. ratcatcher67

      Amazon will have received a benefit in kind and that should be taxable.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Can of worms

    They probably don't want this to set a precedent for being responsible for workplace health and safety at home.

    Wasn't there a case in Europe recently when a worker at home fell down their stairs and the court found the employer liable?

    In the USA this could be big $$$

    1. Psmo
      Gimp

      Re: Can of worms

      Not necessarily liable in the way you're thinking.

      In my country of work I'm covered by corporate accident insurance from when I leave my door in the morning to when I get home at night.

      I'm also covered while on call and working from home.

      1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

        Re: Can of worms

        Similar here.

        Specifically:

        It is considered a work related incident from the point of leaving your home to go to work, to the point of returning home from work(if you go shopping after work you are still considered as work related).

        And yes - we have the lowest cost travel to/from work covered(usually monthly bus/train pass) as well as a certain amount for lunch/day.

        Also some organisiations had a 1-2eur/day reimbursement for use of own resources during the whole WFH stuff.

        So it's perfectly possible.

      2. SW10
        Mushroom

        Re: Can of worms

        In my country of work, I am covered for having sex with strangers on business trips

        https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49662134

        A French company has been found liable for the death of an employee who had a cardiac arrest while having sex with a stranger on a business trip.A Paris court ruled that his death was an industrial accident and that the family was entitled to compensation.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Can of worms

          If only the provider had installed the correct Bulgarian airbags, this tragedy might have been avoided.

        2. Anomalous Cowturd
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Can of worms

          A company I used to work for once questioned a receipt for condoms, when I was working away from home.

          P.P.E. was my answer. They paid it.

          It wasn't her...

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Can of worms

      In a rare stroke of coincidence I recently just completed my firm's online workplace health and safety course.

      And this exact situation was covered in the course.

      Firstly, it was stated that if you're injured doing work related things at home then you are covered by the firms insurance, so the example given was, your router has started playing up, you start heading downstairs to turn the router on and off again, but fall going down the stairs. You are covered by the corporate insurance. If on the other hand you fall going down the stairs to collect mail from the mailman, then you're not covered.

      Of course everyone is relying on a bit of honesty, as to why you were going down the stairs, but basically, if what you're doing is somewhat related to work, you're covered.

      But anyway this is in Germany, so YMMV.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Can of worms

        you start heading downstairs to turn the router on and off again, but fall going down the stairs.

        Well that's me buggered then. I'm about to start (remote) working from home in Germany, but I'll be working downstairs, and the router is upstairs. Damn!

        1. thosrtanner

          Re: Can of worms

          I do not have the worlds best co-ordination and I have been known to fall up the stairs on occasion

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: Can of worms

            Hmm, due to a back problem, I can fall unexpectedly without even trying to go anywhere.

            1. BenDwire Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Can of worms

              Hmm, due to a drink problem, I can fall unexpectedly without even trying to go anywhere.

          2. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

            Re: Can of worms

            I have fallen off the floor on two occasions in my life.

          3. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

            Re: Can of worms

            I have been known to fall up the stairs on occasion

            Is that you Joe?

          4. GuldenNL

            Re: Can of worms

            Biden, you post here?!?!?

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Can of worms

          "but I'll be working downstairs, and the router is upstairs. Damn!"

          Ok, so for work related reason you went upstairs to reboot the router. How are you planning on getting back to your desk without going down the stairs? Have installed a firemans pole or something? :-)

          1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Can of worms

            Is that some sort of double Whooshing sound I hear?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Can of worms

        "you are covered by the firms insurance"

        So the insurer's weasels deal with it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Plaintiff's claims fail because the law does not require Amazon to reimburse expenses that were caused by government actions,"

    Furthermore Amazon has determined that they were paying him wages caused by government anti-slavery actions, and thus Amazon did not need to pay him at all, and will be seeking refund of his wages. Oh, and a kidney from his first born.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      A US airline tried this. US prices generally don't include govt taxes (fed+state sales tax).

      The airline was advertising flights at about 50% of the final cost - claiming that salaries for cabin staff was a govt tax, because the FAA required a number of staff onboard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: "salaries for cabin staff was a govt tax, because the FAA required a number of staff onboard"

        Creative. Evil, but creative.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Mushroom

    $5 million

    $4 million of which will go to the lawyers, the pennies will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  5. Sceptic Tank
    Devil

    This lawsuit is all fun until the company tells everybody working from home to work their overtime hours at the office in future; there is no more WFH due to the issues it raised. It only takes a few individuals to ruin something like this for everyone. I compare this with traffic circles and infernal speed bumps that litter the streets where I live: a few induhviduals could not subscribe to acceptable social behaviour and now everybody suffers.

    (P.S. I'm not defending the Evil Empire — I actively avoid shopping from them)

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Where I live, the few are the ones observing the speed limits.

      1. herman Silver badge

        I think in my street the speed limit is just slightly below Mach 1.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Well how else are you going to get lift off, on the ridiculously short ramps?

    2. thosrtanner

      Generally I agree. The guy is a thoughtless idiot. During the pandemic I saved 2 years worth of season tickets which easily made up for the extra electricity and stuff. And my broadband is flat rate, so no extra expense there. Result: Me quids in.

      Not so good with part home/part work, as an annual season ticket is slightly cheaper than a years worth of 3 days a week return tickets from where I live, but there are other things than money.

      Except apparently for that guy.

      1. Jay 2

        On reading this I was pondering how much extra 'leccy/gas/etc I was burning though during the entire WFH thing. And possibly thought he had a point. But your reply reminded me that I wasn't paying for a season ticket and also that generally lunch at home is much cheaper than lunch in the City. So I guess that might even out a bit.

        Though like you I now go into the office 2/3 times a week and any sort of season ticket is only really worth if if you're doing ~5 days. Oh and then there's lunch...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "any sort of season ticket is only really worth if if you're doing ~5 days"

          With all sorts of electronic ticking systems around these days, it can't be beyond the wit or ability of the transport networks to sell bulk journeys instead of blanket season tickets. Why buy a year of unlimited use on a specific journey when they could just as easily sell you 100 or 200 journeys? With hybrid WFH, there's a market for this. Same should apply to toll roads/bridges/tunnels and low emission charging zones.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "it can't be beyond the wit or ability of the transport networks "

            Optimist!

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            If it would be cheaper for the customer it's likely less profitable for the seller.

            They want to sell you a season ticket that costs you very-small% less than you would pay individual tickets.

            The ideal system is to sell you season tickets that cost MORE but then only allow season ticket holders on commuter services.

            It's a bit annoying at the moment with in-office 2-3 days/week. Paying per day for tickets/parking is 'almost' as expensive as the season ticket/monthly parking.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              "The ideal system is to sell you season tickets that cost MORE but then only allow season ticket holders on commuter services."

              That's pretty well achieved by off-peak prices.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Heh. I lost big time.

        I had just converted from season tickets to weekly passes (season tickets do not have a "senior" rate, while weekly passes are 50% off for over 65). Because of the tax-free witholding system at work, I was stuck with about $800 in the account, which could ONLY be used for transit tickets...which I no longer needed as I was full time wfh.

        The solution turned out to be buying 8 stored value transit cards and donating them to a women's shelter. At least someone got some use out of the inaccessible cash!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Nice! Other, less civic minded people might have chosen a similar route but sold them instead.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Too much hassle to sell them -- no one else was commuting, either!

            As it was, I was restricted:

            - could only withdraw $300 per month

            - could only buy the cards in person at the train station

            - could only put $100 on any one card.

            Took me 3 months to empty the account! The shelter was very appreciative, once they had been convinced I wasn't a scammer! I did all the interaction by email, and the only thing I asked them for was "an" address I could mail them to.

    3. Kevin Johnston

      Oh dear God yes. At one place I worked the tea/coffee machines were free (that was actually an appropriate price based on quality) but in a random discussion someone mentioned this could be classed as a benefit in kind and taxed.

      One of the team then decided to contact HMRC to check on this and was shocked when we suggested he was a pillock. Fortunately HMRC never took it any further so he lived to be a plonker on other days.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        "Oh dear God yes. At one place I worked the tea/coffee machines were free (that was actually an appropriate price based on quality) but in a random discussion someone mentioned this could be classed as a benefit in kind and taxed."

        My old company (big, blue, IT) did exactly this in the early 00's. Sent a memo round saying that free tea/coffee was a BIK, and we could either all have a fixed amount deducted from our salaries to compensate, or they could start charging. They went down the salary route for a while (€10/month before tax IIRC) until there was a backlash, then they started charging instead.

        The coffee was shite either way.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          My company has gone the route of buying coffee machines for the big offices, but the people in the offices are required to provide the coffee, milk, sugar, etc. IT's quite a good system, I think.

          We had a beautiful Jura machine, that did the milk and everything automatically, in our office and yet my colleagues would buy the cheapest powered shite they could find from Lidl or Aldi to put in it! Why on Earth would you have a good coffee machine and put coffee flavoured dirt into it?

          I could never understand my colleagues on that topic. It just meant I didnt drink the stuff, nor pay for it and I would go walkies a couple of times a day to a friends office where they actually had good coffee.

          I swear people are crazy!

          1. Julian Bradfield

            Free/subsidized meals and light refreshments are not taxable if they're available to all staff, so I'm not sure why those above had a problem...

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              As somebody posted above, don't make the mistake of assuming that the way things work where you are applies everywhere.

            2. gnasher729 Silver badge

              Big company I worked there allowed a catering company on their premises. The catering company lost money every year and was subsidised by my then employer, who also limited what the catering company could charge. Because we paid the catering company the employees were not subsidised.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                I ran a few projects for a corporate caterer. Their business model was based on taking control of the internal canteens charging a reasonable rate and using their bulk purchasing ability to actually generate the profits.

                In many cases they were so much more efficient that the incumbent that they could even pay the employer for the privilege of operating the canteens. They did pay a decent wage to staff but were incredibly efficient round procurement payment and budget management. Buying "off contract" was a sackable offence as falling below minimum procurement agreement levels resulted in hie costs to them

          2. Cederic Silver badge

            My company's head office has bean-to-cup machines that offer the basic coffee combinations (including milk variants) and I have no idea what quality beans go into it. I just drink buckets of the stuff because it's good.

            They're catering grade machines though, not dissimilar to the ones you find in the restaurants that do breakfast for Premier Inns.

            So although provision of proper coffee for free is incredibly rare in modern UK, I'm jealous you had a Jura machine. I have their cheapest model at home and it's just better than most company's top models, and the only reason I haven't upgraded to one of Jura's newer and more premium options is that they built this thing so well it just keeps working.

            Easy recommendation. Well worth the investment.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              I do like my coffee, but £765 for their cheapest one is bit outside what I'd be prepared to pay, no matter how good it is. But for those who buy their branded cardboard cup of coffee on the way to work could be saving money within a couple years, including the cost of the insulated, lidded travel mug :-)

            2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              the silicon Valley lifestyle, we not only have the fanciest coffee machine, and the most expensive organic free-range beans.

              We ended up with 2 different $1000 grinders because people wanted a different grind and there were fights over changing the dial.

            3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              My company did that too. Machines were made in Canada, and have a cellular connection for software update. They are capable of charging for the coffee (which was disabled) and are quite clever inside (I sneaked a peek when they were open for service), but do require frequent maintenance! The admin person spent a good amount of time refilling the beans and the powdered milk. I searched the web and found the manual for the machine we had (which includes a default password, natch). I'm not sure how to find its IP address on the cell network, or I would have logged on and changed the splash screen video :-)

              The coffee is very good, but the "milk" is powdered, as is the cocoa. I opted to use milk (also supplied) from the fridge.

              And...for those whose company is too cheap to offer free coffee, I have a suggestion. Form a coffee club, with a nominal monthly membership fee. As much coffee from the communal pot as you wish (and with enough members, you could get a pretty nice bean-to-cup machine) and the supplies are really quite reasonable.

              1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

                If you are a software developer and the company does not provide free coffee, the best action is to leave and find another employer. Coffee provision should be standard.

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "the cheapest powered shite they could find"

            My opinion of all coffee.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              If it's powder

              You're doing it wrong.

              It's supposed to be gloopy, not dusty.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: If it's powder

                I’ve been around the world and tried the “greatest” coffee recommended everywhere trying to solve the mystery of why people like coffee. A tea drinker I remain.

          4. wegie

            Him Indoors' employer does this. HI is currently quietly campaigning for an upgrade to the coffee quality that goes into the machine. 18 months WFH with our Jura filled with organic Yirgacheffe two rooms away from the study has left him much less tolerant of coloured dishwasher than he used to be.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              >our Jura filled with organic Yirgacheffe

              Assuming one of those is the name of your baby (from context hopefully the first)

      2. mccaffm

        That was a thing at one time ! HMRC used to tax subsidised food and beverage. Similar to taxing company provided mobile phones used for personal calls.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Some years back, we used to get £10 per month towards having a home internet connection when it wasn't assumed that the vast majority would have one anyway. But eventually, market penetration reached the point where it was assumed most people would have it anyway and it became a taxable benefit and the company stopped the payments.

          AFAIK, our company has no process in place for checking on private use of company mobile phones. To this day, I've never owned my own mobile phone. On the other hand, I'm not a dick about using it. Most of my personal calls are to my wife to let her know roughly when I'll be home since the job involves highly variable home arrival times and occasional nights away. I'd class those as work related calls.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            To this day, I've never owned my own mobile phone.

            I've never taken the company up on their kind offer of a phone, I only use my own. That way no-one can tell me not to turn it off or ignore it when I decide that work is done for the day. My bosses have always been fine with that approach.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          I remember when private car parking spots were a taxable benefit - so the names on the spots were removed. BUT everyone knew that the CEO/CFO parked by the door, and heaven help anyone that parked in 'their' spot

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    Their response:

    Fine. After we deduct the saved mileage on your car at the current IRS rate we'll send you the bill for what you owe us!

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Sounds logical

    If the worker makes the choice to WFH, then the worker should pay the electricity and internet bills.

    If the worker must stay at home and the employer asks him/her to work from there, then the employer must bare the cost of it.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Sounds logical

      Logical, possibly.

      Smart? Most definitely not.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Sounds logical

        My 'work from home' contract explicitly states that I have to provide the working environment - including things like a desk, a chair and a broadband connection.

        I also don't have to commute, and get paid 44p/mile if I ever do drive to the office (and could choose to do that journey every week if I wanted). So on the whole it's all incredibly sane and entirely fair.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sounds logical

          My previous company's rules also seemed fair. People who were majority WFH had a budget for equipment. Full-time WFH also had a monthly payment toward their heating/electricity costs, and even occasional WFH could submit expenses claims to have internet fees reimbursed, for example those who chose to do late evening/early morning meetings with people in other timezones. In all cases the company did insist that I provide proof that I had suitable home insurance, which they would not pay for

          I never actually asked for internet to be reimbursed, partly because I would have paid it anyway for my personal use, and partly because my wife also used it for WFH and sometimes worked for a competing company. It seemed unfair on both counts to expect my company to pay.

  8. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Amazon's lawyers, however, believe the broadband and utility bills aren't the company's problem

    If they're not the company's problem, then logically they're not company facilities. Therefore they can't be used for company work, as they would be benefiting from using private property without prior agreement.

  9. Roger Mew

    Well this could catch a cold. So, if the guy had his office a cycle ride away then he may be on a winner, but if he has to pay for his vehicle, a train etc he is possibly on a loser. Why OK if he rode a bike to work his central heating goes off, his lighting goes off, his computer goes off (and is not using space) and he also is not using his furniture and so on, BUT should he catch a train to work the courts will have to asses his extra costs and then take his savings by not catching the train. He could then be told to repay the company that money as he is making a profit on his costs. His company pay him taking into consideration his expenses, so if he has not got them, he must pay the company back any differences. Cuts both ways!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huh?

    GitLab, to put one example, pays for their guys internet connection as well as home office expenses (furniture, etc., or co working space fees).

  11. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Not slacking

    While on Universal Credit during the lockdown period I was working part time as a science tutor. After being advised by others I claimed for power, internet etc costs to defray some of the 63.3% marginal tax (at that time) rate on my earnings. All my claims were accepted (because they were reasonable). All tutorials were online then.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not slacking

      In the UK, there are rules about running a business from home too. I have no real idea about them but ISTR there being some rules regarding proportions of business rates (taxes) on the property used. That may only apply if your running a business from home rather than working for an employer. Maybe someone who knows can comment?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not slacking

        Very small companies can end up paying no business rates. The company I work for has 4 employees and does not pay business rates.

        However if you claim more than the 26 a month for WFH by claiming you use x% of your home for working you might find on the sale of your house HMRC is looking for a cut of the profit.

        Sometimes it better not to be too greedy.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Not slacking

        There's a difference between /running/ a business from home and /operating/ a business from home. Broad brush, if you're a car mechanic and do your admin from home, it's not business premises, but if you strip down and fix the cars at home, it is.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    individual !

    We have no idea of this guys situation as to whether WFH cost him, or saved him money overall, and if it is money he couldn't afford to spend, so just because it saved some is not a reason for him not to pursue. So little unfair stating things like "idiot" without the facts.

    in principle though i think the argument has some merit, the US GOVT said stay at home. AMZN said carry on working, if there were expenses to bear surely then AMZN should help towards them. I know different mentality in the US than here in Europe regarding these type of situations, i.e. fear of being laid off etc if head rises above the parapet but come on, not everything is about "our individual" situation.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Perhaps Amazon should just fire him for not having the numeracy skills expected of an engineer.

  14. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Torn on this

    I have to agree, IF someone upgraded their internet because of working from home, Amazon should foot the bill. I have serious doubts it comes out to $50 or $100 per class member, I would not be surprised to find the vast majority spent $0 extra on their internet service, and little to no extra on power. But on the other hand, Amazon's reply "no because it was a government mandate" is complete nonsense, and it's easy enough for a judge to go through the merits of the case, decide what is owed and to whom.

  15. Sub 20 Pilot

    Greed.

    Never thought I would defend Amazon, but seems like the company and employee deserve each other.It was only going to be a matter of time in the US though and sadly this sort of crap will be over here with us pretty soon.

    I know dozens of people here in the UK that were told to work from home, given a laptop & mobile to do so and still manage to whine about the fact that they don't get paid extra. Some of them were saving a 2 hr out & back commute per day, so 10 hours unpaid free time a week extra as well as the saving of fuel and wear & tear on their cars. Set against this maybe a few hundred £ in heat and electricity over a year.

    One couple I know were saving about £2500 in fuel, based on 50 mpg per car and commuting in different directions, not to mention the wear and tear savings of 12,500 miles per car x 2. Also a virtual 'pay rise' of £35K between them due to the time previously spent commuting if they used their hourly rate. Still they whine that it cost an extra few hundred a year in bills.

    These are just as parasitic as amazon and their actions will result in some big solicitors making a killing and everyone else having losing out. When the inevitable happens here and they are all back to normal they will see what they have lost.

    Pricks, the lot of them.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    Ah yes, Amazon

    That struggling start-up.

    I’m amazed they even pay their employees minimum.

  17. EricB123 Bronze badge

    A penny saved is a penny earned

    I get the feeling that Bezos would ask a bodyguard to pick up a penny that he dropped.

  18. jbburks

    I hate this engineer so much for filing this lawsuit.

    The amount of electricity used to WFH is miniscule. And broadband usage is almost always unlimited - he/she would have broadband at home in any case.

    This just gives employers more ammunition to force people to work in the office full time. We are desperately trying to educate our employers on the benefits of WFH while this idiot is going to move them the other way.

  19. Ribfeast

    If they have to work from home, then they can claim their home office expenses on tax as a deduction, at least in Australia. Here you can also claim per-hour based on some formula, or do it the hard way and work out power, % of your residence, internet, etc etc.

    The savings in fuel and time for me are immense, I love working from home. Save 2 hours in the car, and a 130km round trip, car needs servicing less often, less fuel, etc.

    Dunno why they are chasing Amazon, just claim it on tax.

  20. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Deductible

    In the US, if you work from home and have a designated work space, you can deduct its cost from your taxes. I take a deduction for my home office based on the area it takes up (one room) and the percentage of usage that is work related (100% since I'm self employed). My office is about 12% of the house, so 12% of the power bill is deductible. Yeah, it doesn't make complete sense, but we're talking about a government agency.

    I could rent an accommodation office in one of those work share buildings and deduct all of that cost if the home office deduction ever goes away. I'd almost never use that office and continue working from home anyway. If I ever get audited, they'll see I'm not claiming all the space I use for business. Past a certain percentage and it is another trigger for a tax audit so I stay comfortably below.

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