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WeWork appears to have instituted a policy where they prohibit their budgets from being used for purchases of red meat, pork and poultry, citing sustainability.

www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/13/wework-meat-events-expense-ban

“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

The ban appears to apply for both company-sponsored events, which seems like a reasonable policy with a clear business case — noone's entitled to free lobster (incidentally, seafood isn't prohibited by the policy, possibly because studies have shown that pescetarianism is one of the healthiest diets), as well as reimbursable per-diem expenses, which sounds like overreaching into the personal lives of employees eating on their own time during business travel.

… staff will not be able to expense any meals that include poultry, pork or red meat.

Is it legal for a company to have a travel policy denying its U.S. employees from reimbursement for solo sessions of meat eating during business trips?

  • Do you know if there were any contractual rights that existed for the employees? – Viktor Jul 14 '18 at 3:49
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    @Viktor, no, but I'm pretty sure they weren't outright promising anyone to be reimbursing their meat expenses in writing. – cnst Jul 14 '18 at 4:09
  • if they were promising to be reimbursing general travel expenses, I imagine that would be interesting – Viktor Jul 14 '18 at 4:37
  • @Viktor, why? Employment is at-will, no policy is set in stone, and there is no claim of any retroactive application, so, I don't really see how contracts could be at stake here. – cnst Jul 14 '18 at 5:30
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I don't know of any federal law that is violated. US labor law is generally favorable to employers, compared to many other countries, and gives employers a lot of freedom in setting policies and rules, The theory is that an employee who doesn't like it can go and work somewhere else, and an employer with unreasonable policies will eventually be unable to get people to work for them.

In particular, it surprises some people that employers aren't legally obligated to reimburse travel expenses at all:

The FSLA does not have any rules regarding an employer's obligation to reimburse an employee for business-related travel expenses. No federal law requires reimbursement.

So it would be perfectly legal for the company to require employees to pay for all their own meals when traveling on business. Given this, I'd expect that the company would have pretty broad discretion to place conditions and restrictions on reimbursement, including what they will and won't pay for.

If an employee had a disability or religious beliefs that required them to eat meat, and the company wouldn't grant them an exception, they might have a claim under the ADA or Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act respectively. But if it's just that they happen to prefer meat, I don't think there's a law to guarantee them such a right.

Some states could have their own laws that might be violated, though I tend to doubt it. If you have a particular state in mind, please specify.

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