EVERY MINUTE COUNTS « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Employers Must Pay for All Minutes Worked

Before and After Shifts

Employers who require workers to perform short tasks before or after clocking out for their shift will now need to rethink this practice, even if it takes only an extra minute or so per day to boot up or turn off a computer and lock the door on the way out.

Under certain circumstances, federal and state courts have occasionally permitted employers to disregard miniscule amounts of time employees spend working off the clock on tasks that cannot be recorded properly because they are too short, uncertain or indefinite (the de minimis rule).

In class action Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, the plaintiff, a minimum wage hourly shift supervisor, alleged that he worked off the clock at the end of nearly every shift performing administrative tasks such as uploading a daily computerized report, closing the store, setting the alarm and walking co-workers to their cars. Plaintiff claimed that during the 17 months of his Starbucks employment he worked a total of nearly 13 hours of such de minimis time for approximately $103.00 in unpaid wages.

The California Supreme Court decided the de minimis rule did not apply and that Starbucks thus failed to pay all wages due as: (i) the employer required plaintiff to routinely work anywhere from four to 10 extra minutes per shift after clocking out; (ii) such time was predictable and trackable, especially with today’s modern technology; and (iii) the number of minutes added up to an amount that was not trivial to the average worker.

The final result may be far from trivial. As a class action on behalf of all non-managerial employees who performed store closing tasks for Starbucks operations in California from mid-2009 to October 2010, the company potentially faces significant damages in underpaid compensation.

The Court concluded that California law does “not allow employers to require employees to routinely work for minutes off-the-clock without compensation. We leave open whether there are wage claims involving employee activities that are so irregular or brief in duration that it would not be reasonable to require employers to compensate employees for the time spent on them.”

Based on this case, employers should make use of available state-of-the-art time-tracking technology to precisely track and pay for every minute of work performed. Wherever possible, employers should also restructure any routine tasks to avoid any work occurring before or after clocking out.

For further assistance, please contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Cindy Bamforth

September 7, 2018