SACRAMENTO - The California Supreme Court recently said employees must be paid for the small amount of time it takes to close up a store in a case in which a Starbucks worker filed suit claiming labor law violations.
The high court ruled July 26 that the federal Fair Labor Standard Act's de minimis doctrine – which essentially states that an employer does not have to pay a worker if it takes less than 10 minutes to close up a store after clocking out – does not apply in California.
Douglas Troester, a former shift supervisor at Starbucks, sued the coffee shop chain claiming it violated California labor laws by not paying him for the time it took to close up a store. Following the July 26 Supreme Court decision, that lawsuit is likely to be revived.
Troester's claim was dismissed by a federal judge in 2014. Troester appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which then asked to California's high court to decide whether the "de minimis" rule was compatible with state labor laws.
Starbucks argued that if there is a labor law violation when an employee spends seconds leaving work after clocking out it could lead to "innumerable lawsuits."
"The de minimis rule is one of common sense and everyday practicalities, which prevents such absurdities," the Seattle-headquartered company's lawyer's said.
But the Supreme Court, in the July 26 opinion, stated that workers should be paid for any time they are on the employer's premises. The court did allow that there are cases where tasks “that are so irregular or brief in duration” would not require payment.
Troester claimed that he was regularly required to do work after clocking out, including sending sales information, setting the alarm and bringing in furniture.
He further claimed that over the more than one-and-a-half years of working for the company, he worked 13 hours more than he was paid for, meaning he was owed approximately $100.
A Starbucks representative told Reuters that the company is disappointed with the high court decision.
Attorney Shaun Setareh, who represented Troester in his initial lawsuit against the company, told the same news agency that it "would force many companies to change their employment practices."