Starbucks Employee Seeks Pay for Working Off the Clock

The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Starbuck’s employee seeking compensation for unpaid minutes accumulated after clock out. The employee argued that tasks spent off the clock, including locking the door, setting the alarm, and walking employees to their car, took an extra 4-10 minutes per day and were unaccounted for in his paycheck. The U.S. District Court considered this amount of time to be minimal and rejected the lawsuit.

The Starbucks employee then appealed the U.S. District Court’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court brought the case to California Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the employee.

Over 17 months, the employee claimed he had spent a total of 12 hours and 50 minutes performing tasks after he had clocked out. The California Supreme Court found that the unpaid tasks, amounting to $102.67, was significant enough for the employee to seek the wages.

The California Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the employee is likely to set a trend. The time accumulated off the clock, whether before or after a shift, will be sought for compensation by employees who feel they should be reimbursed for their time. But how much time is significant enough to allow for compensation?

The U.S. District Court’s dismissal of the lawsuit was ruled in part of the difficulty to account for additional time spent off the clock. The California Supreme Court disagreed and concluded that employers can either restructure the work so that it is conducted during the workday, change the timesheet process, or automatically incorporate additional time in paychecks.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger did state that employers should not have to account for tasks that are too hard to account for, or that are irregular in occurrence. Such tasks would include reading emails and/or texts messages regarding scheduling.

After the ruling of the California Supreme Court, the case now resides back with the 9th Circuit.

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