Opening Up or Closing
Changing Into & Out of Uniform
Putting On-Removing Protective Gear
Including Back Wages
An employer who requires employees to work a few minutes off-the-clock on a regular basis cannot avoid paying them by claiming that only a minimal amount of time is involved on each occasion.
This pro-employer claim is called the "de minimus doctrine". Employers can use the "de minimis doctrine" elsewhere to evade paying employees, but NOT in California, thanks to a recent decision by the California Supreme Court.
In Troester v Starbucks Corporation * the Court found that modern time-keeping equipment can now easily measure small amounts of time, and, therefore, employers can no longer complain that keeping track of a few minutes before and after each shift is too difficult. The Court ruled that Troester must be compensated for 4-10 minutes of off-the-clock work daily. The court also noted that a few seconds per shift might not be compensable.
If you are regularly required to work off-the-clock for minutes at a time, for example, putting on a uniform or protective gear before clocking in and removing it after clocking out, you should be paid for the time. Same with opening up and closing, and, potentially, all other off-the-clock work that involves only a few minutes per shift. After all, the Court reasoned:
"A few minutes every day add up "
If you have questions, whether you are owed back pay for working off-the-clock call us for a totally free, 100% confidential consultation; or, submit your contact information in the form to the right and we will respond promptly.
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In the Troester case, Starbucks employee Troester was required to clock out on every closing shift before initiating the computer's "close store procedure" which transmitted daily sales, profit & loss, and store inventory data to Starbucks's corporate headquarters. After Troester completed this task, he activated the alarm, exited the store, and locked the front door. Troester walked his coworkers to their cars in compliance with Starbucks's policy. In addition, Troester occasionally reopened the store to allow employees to retrieve items they left behind, waited with employees for their rides to arrive, or brought in store patio furniture mistakenly left outside.
These closing tasks regularly took Troester between 4-10 minutes.
Ruling in Troester's favor, the California Supreme Court noted that California's strict enforcement of the rule requiring 10-minute rest breaks established the importance of small intervals under California law.
The Court also noted that the very purpose of Class Action litigation is to enable the recovery of small amounts of money by combining claims when each individual claim by itself would not warrant a lawsuit.
Applied to wage claims, Class Action litigation furthers two important public policies. (1) obtaining back wages when an employer engages in a pattern and practice of evading compensating its employees; and (2) preventing employers from engaging in this practice going forward.
The Court in Troester limited its ruling to the facts of that case and specifically declined to list every possible circumstance in which off-the-clock work required compensation.
Nevertheless, Troester establishes the principle that California employees who regularly work off-the- clock for 4-10 minutes at a time are entitled to compensation.
If you have questions whether you are entitled to back pay for work off-the-clock, contact us at (877) 320-2380. We would be pleased to review your circumstances and consider your case. The call will be in total confidence at no cost or obligation to you.
* Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, 5 Cal.5th 829 (2018)
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