855 461 8808

Federal De Minimis Doctrine – Not in California

Posted on February 19, 2019

In July 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a decision in Troester v. Starbucks that held that Starbucks must pay its employees for minutes spent regularly performing off-the-clock tasks and finding that the federal de minimis doctrine did not apply in this case.

The federal de minimis doctrine states that an employer does not have to pay an employee for working time that is trivially small. The California Supreme Court decision rules 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 are obligated to compensate the employee of that time. In other words, the de minimis doctrine does not apply.

Examples of work that Troester performed off the clock that Starbucks hadn’t compensated for included: locking the store, setting the alarm system, and walking employees to their cars. Troester was seeking payment for 12 hours and 50 minutes of work over a 17-month periods which amounted to $102.67. The Court stated that this amount “is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries or cover a month of bus fare,” which they reason is not de minimis.

This case reinforces that employers must continue to take proactive steps to deter off the clock work. Written policies should be implemented that make clear the employer does not tolerate off the clock work. Employers should also provide a method for employees to record time worked, pre-shift, post-shift, at home, etc. no matter how trivially. Employers must recognize that trivial work must be compensated, especially if employees are required to perform the work on a regular basis, such as reviewing and certifying their time cards every other week.

Employers should also ensure that if they have a rounding policy on their time keeping system, that the policy is fair to employees and is primarily in their favor.

Lauren Sims is the article’s author and the Director of Human Resources. Whenever you require professional Human Resources or Payroll guidance to navigate the ever-changing landscape of California and Federal Employment Laws & Regulations, contact us for a no-obligation consultation.

eqHR Solutions provides professional, tactical and strategic human resources support; ADP payroll product implementation/training and payroll processing services for businesses throughout Southern California.