Published May 23, 2019 Dealer’s Voice – The labyrinth of wage and hour compliance in California just got another twist. In Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, Case No. S234969, the California Supreme Court, in answering a certified question from the United States Circuit Court for the 9th Circuit regarding the so called de minimis rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act, found that even minimal activities performed by an employee after clocking out could be the basis for overtime pay. The court found that the de minimis rule under federal law was not applicable under California’s more expansive statutory framework. Accordingly, the court declined to apply the general equitable rule of de minimis non curat lex (‘the law cares not for trifles) and held overtime pay was due.
In Troester, after he clocked out, the employee spent from 4 to 10 minutes per day, walking his coworkers to their cars in compliance with Starbucks’s policy, occasionally reopening the store to allow employees to retrieve items they left behind, waiting with employees for their rides to arrive, or bringing in store patio furniture mistakenly left outside. The total amount of overtime pay owed to the employee was $102, spanning seventeen months of employment.
In declining to apply the de minimis rule, the California Supreme Court engaged in an expansive discussion of the availability of class action lawsuits as the basis for its reluctance to apply a de minimis rule. The court noted that, although an individual claim might be so small as to not be worthwhile to pursue, an application of the de minimis rule would inhibit enforcement of the FLSA, through a class action on behalf of a group of employees who each had a relatively small FLSA claim. In practice, dealerships in California should review their policies and practices regarding off-the-clock activities. For example, if a technician clocks out and then cleans up his work station, this activity would be the basis for overtime. The same rule would apply to a salesperson who clocks out and then completes some routine paperwork on her desk. To avoid Troester — type claims, dealers should clearly state the policy, in employee handbooks and elsewhere, that for hourly employees, all dealership-related activities must be conducted while the employee is on the clock. As always, it is best to inspect what you expect.