Starbucks and other employers in California must pay workers for the minutes they spend on work-related duties before and after they clock out, the California Supreme Court decided Thursday, July 25, 2018.

The court held in a unanimous decision that workers should be paid for off-the-clock work tasks, such as setting a store alarm, locking up and walking co-workers to their cars.

The case was brought in 2012 by Douglas Troester, a former Starbucks shift supervisor making $8 an hour. Troester argued that Starbucks’ policy of requiring off-the-clock work violated state labor codes by failing to pay him to close the store, turn off computers and lights,and activate the alarm.

Troester initially lost in federal court. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the high court to wade into an obscure federal doctrine known as the de minimis standard, which essentially excuses employers that fail to compensate workers for small amounts of difficult-to-track-time. The high court rejected the doctrine, writing “federal doctrine does not represent the law of California.”

California Supreme Court said a few extra minutes of work each day could “add up.” Troester was seeking payment for 12 hours and 50 minutes of work over a 17-month period. At $8 an hour, that amounts to $102.67, the California Supreme Court said,“That is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries, or cover a month of bus fares.”

Bryan Lazarski, a Los Angeles attorney who represents workers in wage claims, told the Associated Press he expects a wave of new lawsuits to “test the boundary of what this case says” to determine how much time spent on off-the-clock tasks is enough to get paid.

Starbucks’s appeal is pending in the Ninth Circuit.

Recommendation:

Pending a decision in Troester, employers should consult with their advisors to review their timekeeping policies and procedures. Employers should evaluate the job duties and expectations of their non-exempt employees to determine if, and to what extent, they may be expected to perform any tasks “off the clock” before or after their scheduled shifts.

– Author: Nicole Knight

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