Management lawyers are already decrying another “anti-employer” decision from the California Supreme Court. But today’s decision in Troester v. Starbucks http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S234969.PDF is expressly limited to its facts and, as the concurring opinions make clear:
California law does, in short, make some allowances based on considerations of practicality and reasonableness. It does not, however, permit an employer to require an employee to regularly work for nontrivial periods of time without providing compensation.
The evidence in this case was that
Starbucks’s computer software required [Plaintiff, a shift supervisor] to clock out on every closing shift before initiating the software’s “close store procedure” on a separate computer terminal in the back office. The close store procedure transmitted daily sales,profit and loss, and store inventory data to Starbucks’s corporate headquarters. After [Plaintiff] completed this task, he activated the alarm, exited the store, and locked the front door. [Plaintiff] also submitted evidence that he walked his coworkers to their cars in compliance with Starbucks’s policy. In addition, [Plaintiff] submitted evidence that he 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.
The undisputed evidence was that these closing tasks required Plaintiff to work four to 10 additional minutes each day.
The District Court judge who originally granted summary judgment in this case was, presumably, at one time an attorney billing time in 6 minute increments. Some lawyers today, many of them presumably representing employers, would likely bill $100 for a phone call lasting 6 minutes. It is hard to justify not compensating employees for “regularly occurring required tasks.” As the opinion points out, rounding practices can easily be implemented to account for this time. The employer focuses on the fact that the unpaid time (at the then-applicable minimum wage rate of $8/hour) added up to $102.67 for 1 shift supervisor over 17 months. So, would paying for this time have any material effect on any given store’s bottom line?
I don’t have much of a problem with the holding in this case. I do, however, have an issue with all the derivative claims associated with this type of case. I also have an issue with the fact that the employer should have been entitled to rely on the DLSE policy so that the holding could have been made prospective.