The short answer is: yes in California. If you’re an hourly or non-exempt employee in California, the Supreme Court has ruled that workers must be paid for time spent completing tasks like locking up after work. The California Supreme Court says that the unpaid time is wage theft.
The ruling is a result of a year’s long battle between Starbucks and a Californian employee of theirs. He sued the company for not paying him for the additional four to 10 minutes it would take him to close after he clocked out each day.
Minimis Doctrine and California Wage and Hour Laws
This case challenged the law in existence known as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s De Minimis Doctrine. De Minimis Doctrine states that infrequent and insignificant periods of work that cannot be precisely recorded and are done outside of work hours, should not be counted as work time. In the case of this Starbucks employee, however, it was found that the work was being done routinely or regularly, and this was the very basis for concluding that he should be compensated.
Starbucks, unhappy with the decision, is appealing. The US Chamber of Commerce sides with Starbucks’s appeal stating that employers in California are already susceptible to costs from weak wage and hour lawsuits.
The Supreme Court countered that a few minutes each day adds up, like in the case of the Starbucks employee whose time spent locking up over 17 months amounted to over $100.
What Does This Mean for California Employees?
The Supreme Court made suggestions for measures employers can take to properly compensate their workers, including:
- Implementation of time-tracking tools
- Properly estimating work time and compensation
- Reorganization of tasks to avoid unpaid overtime responsibilities
Common Types of Work done Outside of Working Hours
Unsure whether you may be a victim of unpaid wages or unpaid overtime? Here are some tasks commonly completed without compensation:
- Pre-work includes things like loading, transferring equipment, or worksite preparation before clocking in.
- Post-shift work includes cleaning, returning equipment, or locking up after clocking out.
- If you’re asked to rework a project without pay this is also a form of wage theft.
- Any work being taken home in order meet a deadline, or staying after your shift to help a customer
- Making work-related phone calls or sending work-related emails outside of your shift
In cases where employees are not being properly compensated for their work, a wage and hour attorney can help you report the unpaid wages, file a wage and hour claim, and recover back pay.