California Supreme Court: “A few extra minutes of work each day can add up.”

California Supreme Court: “A few extra minutes of work each day can add up.”

By Robert L. Rediger, Esq.

On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court in Troester v. Starbucks Corp., held that the de minimis doctrine, recognized as a defense to a claim for unpaid wages under federal law, is not applicable to claims for unpaid wages brought under California law. In Troester, the plaintiff brought a class action lawsuit alleging that Starbucks violated the California Labor Code by failing to pay him for short periods of time during his 17-month period of employment, resulting in $102.67 in unpaid wages owed him. The Supreme Court held that “[a]n employer that requires its employees to work minutes off the clock on a regular basis or as a regular feature of the job may not evade the obligation to compensate the employee for that time by invoking the de minimis doctrine.” The Troester Court declined to decide “whether there are circumstances where compensable time is so minute or irregular that it is unreasonable to expect the time to be recorded.”

In light of the Supreme Court’s Troester decision, employers should review their policies and practices to determine whether employees are regularly engaged in any work-related activities “off the clock.” The plaintiff in Troester alleged that after he clocked out, he activated the alarm, locked the front door, walked his coworkers to their cars in compliance with Starbucks’s policy, occasionally reopened the store to allow employees to retrieve items they left behind, waited with employees for their rides to arrive, and brought in store patio furniture left outside. If an employer requires its employees to perform similar functions, including changing into uniforms, attend mandatory meetings, setting an alarm, etc., before starting or ending their shifts and being paid for such time, it must consider changing such policies and practices to comply with the law.