California Supreme Court Limits The Ability of Employers To Use The De Minimis Doctrine In Wage And Hour Claims

On July 26, 2018,  the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Douglas Troester v. Starbucks Corp, refusing to hold that the well-established de minimis doctrine applies under California law.  The de minimis doctrine is a principle of law that has long been endorsed and applied by federal and California state courts and California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.  The doctrine provides that employers need not compensate employees for insignificant amounts of time spent performing work-related tasks off the clock where such time is administratively difficult to track.  In this case, the Court held that the de minimis doctrine cannot be used to allow an employer to avoid paying for tasks that take, on average, four to 10 minutes at the end of an employee’s shift.  However, the Court stated that is was not prepared to hold that the doctrine could never be applied under California law on potentially different facts involving smaller amounts of time spent off the clock or only sporadically.

The Court’s decision is another employee-sided opinion that will likely hurt California employers.  Although the Court stopped short of holding that the de minimis doctrine may never be used to defend against California wage and hour claims, the Court rejected it on the facts of this case, and made it difficult for employers to safely rely on the doctrine going forward.  This ruling makes clear that California employers must ensure that all time spent by employees performing work tasks (or time when employees are under the control of the employer) is tracked and compensated — no matter how minimal the time.

For more information about this decision, contact Ron S. Brand of The Brand Law Firm.

(The Court’s full decision can be read here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S234969.PDF)

This blog provides general information about legal issues.  It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.

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