De Minimis? Not!!!!
For many years, employers in California would take the position that minor activities associated with your work that were conducted off the clock were so minor that they didn’t need to pay you for doing them. They applied the so-called “de minimus” rule.
This all changed last year.
Troester Challenges the De Minimus Doctrine
Douglas Troester sued Starbucks claiming that the company consistently required him to work off the clock without paying him. Starbucks sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the work was “de minimus” and therefore not compensable time. The federal district court agreed with Starbucks and threw out the case.
Troester filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit sought the assistance of the California Supreme Court in determining whether California applied the “de minimus” rule to claims for unpaid wages.
In a case of first impression, the California Supreme Court adopted prior appellate holdings that “since the statutory workweek includes all time during which an employee is . . . required to be a prescribed workplace, the time spent in these activities must be compensated.” The Supreme Court further noted it prior decision that, “[W]age orders take precedence over common law to the extent they conflict.” The Supreme Court further looked at Section 510(a) of the Labor Code, which provides in part, “8 hours of labor constitutes a day’s work.” Therefore, the Supreme Court determined that any work in excess of 8 hours per day is overtime.
Because Troester was seeking unpaid wages under Section 510 and related sections, the de minimus doctrine didn’t apply and Starbucks was required to pay him for all time he spent working no matter how minor or trivial.
What Does this Mean For You
“Off the clock” work is compensable time in the State of California. If you aren’t being paid for so-called “de minimus” work, your employer is taking advantage of you and may owe you substantial wages. Furthermore, if you protest that you should be paid for your work and are subjected to some type of negative repercussions, you may have a claim for retaliation against your employer.
If you have any questions about this article or any other matter, please feel free to give us a call.
Disclaimer: The foregoing is provided for informational purposes only, is not an advertisement, does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The content may not apply to the specific facts or a particular matter. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.