August 21, 2018

August 21, 2018

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

August 20, 2018

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

Does The De Minimis Defense Apply To California Labor Code Claims?

The California Supreme Court recently heard the case of Troester v. Starbucks Corporation which could significantly increase employers’ exposure to claims by hourly paid employees for small pre-shift and post-shift tasks that are currently treated as insignificant and not compensable.

The de minimis doctrine, an established defense under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), permits employers to disregard time spent by employees on minor pre-shift and post-shift tasks (generally, to the extent less than 10 minutes).  The applicability of the de minimis defense is dependent upon factors such as: (a) the practical difficulty the employer would encounter in recording the additional time; (b) the total amount of compensable time; and (c) the regularity of the additional work.  This defense usually applies to the minimal amount of time spent by employees, for example, in logging onto a computer or donning and doffing safety equipment.

Specifically, in this case, Douglas Troester was a non-exempt supervisor at a Starbucks store. He filed a lawsuit against Starbucks alleging that it failed to pay him wages for time spent performing certain tasks at closing, such as activating the store alarm, locking the front door and walking co-workers to their cars. The federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of Starbucks and found that, while Troester’s closing activities occurred regularly,  they only took 4 to 10 minutes per day and were administratively difficult to track and compensate. Troester appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which certified for decision by the California Supreme Court the question of whether the de minimis defense is available to wage claims under the California Labor Code.

During oral argument before the California Supreme Court, the justices noted that, while the defense is recognized in FLSA regulations, no corresponding reference to it exists under the California Labor Code or in the Wage Orders.  On the other hand, the justices also seemed concerned that striking down the defense would cause an increase in the filing of costly lawsuits over very small amounts on unpaid time worked.

Pending a decision from the California Supreme Court, employers should consult with counsel regarding the review and implementation of their timekeeping policies and procedures for de minimis off-the-clock work.

A decision is expected from the California Supreme Court within the next 90 days.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2018

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Danny Yadidsion, labor and employment lawyer, Jackson Lewis
Associate

Danny Yadidsion is an Associate in the Los Angeles, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Mr. Yadidsion represents employers in all types of employment litigation including wage and hour class action, harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. He also advises and counsels employers with respect to a diverse range of issues.

While attending the University of California, Los Angeles Law School, he served as the President of the Jewish Law Students Association (JLSA), staff editor of the Entertainment Law Review, and particpated...

213-630-8287
Principal

Hazel U. Poei is a Principal in the Los Angeles, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice is focused on single-plaintiff, multi-plaintiff, and class action employment litigation in state and federal courts.

Ms. Poei has also handled arbitration proceedings and matters before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Ms. Poei has also prepared briefing to the United States Supreme Court.

213-689-0404