Oral arguments next step in Starbucks wage case that challenges de minimis rule

By W.J. Kennedy | Jul 19, 2017

SACRAMENTO - California employers await the scheduling by the state Supreme Court for oral arguments in Troester v. Starbucks, a case that challenges the authority of a “de minimis” rule that has been repeatedly applied in other disputes over wages.

The court is reviewing a federal court decision that agreed that the de minimis rule applied in the case – that Starbucks was not responsible to pay an employee for the brief amount of time it took him to close the store at the end of a work day.

Sidley Austin partner David R. Carpenter, who filed an amicus in the case for the California Retailers Association, said that the “de minimis rule is implicated in numerous contexts across all kinds of job positions and industries.”

He added that a ruling in the employee’s favor would mean that employers statewide would have to over compensate workers to be on the safe side.

“Employers have been relying on the rule for years for time that is trivial and impractical, or even impossible, to record. Eliminating it now would expose employers to costs and penalties that far exceed the value of the time at issue. It also would cause employer to increase restrictions on activities around the workplace – inconveniencing and burdening the employees themselves.”

Richard J. Simmons, of Sheppard Mullin, who filed an amicus for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that a change in the law would have an immediate impact in California, and a later one outside the state.

“The ruling would be cited by lawyers defending clients in other states,” Simmons said.

Simmons said the Supreme Court has given no indication when it might hear the case, but once it does it has 90 days to rule.

Troester, who filed an action in state court in 2012, claimed that during a period between 2008 and 2010 he was sometimes responsible for shutting down his Starbucks store’s computer system and locking the doors after he had already clocked out for the day.

His attorney, David Spivak, filed a class action lawsuit under the California Labor Code for failure to pay minimum and overtime wages, failure to provide accurate written wage statements and failure to timely pay all final wages.

Editor’s note: The Northern California Record is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

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