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Federal de minimis rule does not apply in California

The California Supreme Court, which is the final interpreter of questions of California law, recently issued an important decision that may affect the rights of California employees who work on the time clock.

The decision attracted the attention of news media outlets, and it may spur a new wave of litigation relating to wage and hour violations, a trend that employees may see as a welcome relief.

Under the federal law, courts have for a long time held that federal wage laws did not require employers to pay employees for absolutely every minute of time they worked. The courts reasoned that this was just impractical and hard to keep track of.

While Congress has taken the additional step of codifying this de minimis rule in to the federal statutes, states have always been free to set stricter wage and hour standards for employers who conduct business within their individual borders. As previous posts on this blog have discussed, California often elects to go beyond what the federal law requires, and this de minimis rule is no exception.

In its recent decision against Starbucks, the California Supreme Court did not shut the door altogether on a de minimis exception, but it did indicate that routine, expected work, like closing up shop or sending a final report, has to be on the clock.

As such, a Starbucks supervisor who had performed such tasks without pay for five to 10 minutes each day was entitled to back pay. Even at minimum wage, this time added up, being worth over $100 after the employee had worked for Starbucks for about a year and a half.

The California Supreme Court has just made it clear that employees are entitled to pay for all of the work they are expected to do. An employee who feels that he or she has been deprived of this right may have legal options available.

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Law Offices of Allan A. Sigel, P.C.

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