Working Off the Clock – Do Employers Have to Pay for Small Amounts of Time Worked?
On July 26th, 2018 the California Supreme Court ruled that employers must pay employees for routine and small amounts of time they spend working off-the-clock. The court found that the federal de minimis rule that allows employers not to pay for short amounts of time that are difficult to keep track of did not apply to Californian labor law. This ruling arose from Starbucks employee, Douglas Troester, suing Starbucks for not paying him for time he spent after work locking up and doing other minimal tasks. Troester argued that Starbucks owed him pay for time he spent locking up the store, setting alarms, and walking employees to their cars; which took him between four to ten minutes each day. The federal District Court ruled in favor of Starbucks. Troester appealed his case to the Ninth Circuit, which was then advanced the case to the California Supreme Court which accepted Troester’s position that the federal standard did not apply in California. This case affirms that, unlike federal labor laws, California employees must pay employees for all time spent off the clock, even if considered de minimis. It is still an open question, however, as to what kind of work is too brief, fleeting or trivial to track. In a concurring opinion a Justice declared that employers may not have to consider every “fraction of a second.” Despite uncertainty in some aspects of how this ruling could be enforced, California employers should ensure that employees are compensated for all time spent before or after clocking in – no matter how small the amount may seem. If you have questions or need guidance as to how best to protect yourself, as an employer, from claims for unpaid wages, please contact the attorneys at Schneiders & Associates, LLP for a consultation.