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Every Minute Counts in California

Troester v. Starbucks Corp outside general counsel opinion employment law

California Supreme Court stated recently in Troester v. Starbucks Corp., that the federal wage laws that allow companies not to pay employees for negligible amounts work (de minimus rule), do not apply under the California wage and hour standards.

The de minimis rule has been around for over 70 years to provide companies with administrative convenience of not paying for mere minutes of incidental work after or before employee reported to work (i.e. booting up and shutting down worker's computers).

The California Supreme Court held that an “employer that requires its employees to work minutes off the clock on a regular basis or as a regular feature of the job may not evade the obligation to compensate the employee for that time by invoking the de minimis doctrine.” Troester, (2018) 5 Cal. 5th 829, 847. The plaintiff in Troester “had various duties related to closing the store after he clocked out” and that “on a daily basis, these closing tasks generally took [plaintiff] about 4-10 minutes.” Id. at *21. The Court said this time must be compensated.

That said, the Court did not reject the de minimus doctrine completely, leaving its application to tasks “so irregular or brief in duration that it would not be reasonable to require employers to compensate employees for the time spent on them.” Troester, 5 Cal. 5th at 848. Justice Leondra Kruger wrote a separate concurring opinion providing some examples for when the de minimis rule could still apply:

  • Time spent turning on a computer and logging in to an application in order to start a shift and the process takes longer because of a rare and unpredictable software glitch.

  • Time spent reviewing schedule changes notified by e-mail or text message during off hours.

  • Time spent waiting at work for transportation at the end of the day during which time a customer may ask the employee a question not realizing the employee is off duty.

Of course, Troester decision is limited to California, but if the trend continues, we might see a major trend shift in other states as well. Call your outside general counsel to review your current policies to make sure they are in compliance with this recent decision.


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