In a much-needed win for employees, the California Supreme Court unanimously held that Starbucks must pay its workers for minutes regularly spent off the clock. Not only is this a win for Starbucks’ employees, but it is a win for all California employees as it is another reminder to employers to pay workers for every minute they work off the clock.
In Troester vs. Starbucks, the California Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether Douglas Troester, a Starbucks Shift Manager, was entitled to back pay for the time he spent closing the store after he clocked out. On any given day, Mr. Troester would clock out and then spend four to ten additional minutes each day setting an alarm, exiting the store, locking the door, and walking coworkers to their cars – tasks that were mandated by Starbucks. Over the 17-month period of his employment, Mr. Troester’s unpaid time added up to $102.67 of unpaid wages. While Starbucks argued this was de minimis, Justice Goodwin Liu observed, “That is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of a groceries, or cover a month of bus fares.”
The Troester decision also clarified the de minimis doctrine, a 1946 doctrine applied by Federal Courts to excuse payment for small amounts of otherwise compensable time if the time would be administratively difficult to record. The Court held: (1) California’s wage and hour statutes did not adopt the de minimis standard; and (2) the relevant wage order and statutes do not permit application of the de minimis rule where an employer required an employee to work “off the clock” several minutes per shift.
In other words, the Supreme Court of California confirmed California hourly employees should be paid for every minute they are required to be on their employers’ premises. Indeed, this ruling should persuade employers to change their short-changing employment practices, such as “rounding” down employee hours. Instead, employers should now evaluate ways to restructure work, use technological advances to track time, and make other changes to prevent employees from performing off-the-clock work without compensation. Although Starbucks plans to appeal this decision, Trouster established an upward trajectory for California employees.
If you believe you have been inadequately compensated by your employer, please call us at (619) 342-8000 for a free case evaluation.
1. Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, S234969 (July 26, 2018). Online at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S234969.PDF.