On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court served up a hard-to-swallow cup of “Express-No” -- not just for Starbucks, but for all California employers who were hoping the Court would deny pay to employees for the extra minutes spent at work between clocking out and actually leaving the workplace. Instead, in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, the Court concluded an “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.”
Troester was a former Starbucks shift supervisor. He alleged that the Starbucks computer software required him to clock out on every closing shift before initiating the Starbucks software's "close store procedure." After Troester completed the closing tasks, he activated the alarm, exited the store, and locked the front door. This closing process took him between four to ten minutes per shift. Troester’s unpaid minutes over 17 months of employment totaled only $102.67 in wages.
Troester wanted to be paid for that time, but Starbucks told him that it was de minimis, meaning too small or difficult to measure and, therefore, non-compensable. Unfortunately, the California Supreme Court disagreed with Starbucks. To reach its decision, the Court answered two questions in the negative:
Where does this leave California employers? You may pay more for your next espresso at Starbucks! You also should be aware of a few key takeaways from the majority opinion (which constitutes binding precedent) and the concurring opinions (which are not binding precedent, but are instructive):
LightGabler is an employment defense firm working with employers and management to ensure compliance with California employment law and proactively prevent litigation. If you have any questions regarding “hours worked,” “off-the-clock” claims, the “de minimis“ doctrine, or any other employment law matter, please call LightGabler at 805-248-7208.
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