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Troester v. Starbucks Corp.

Supreme Court of California

July 26, 2018, Filed



 [***822]  [**1116]   LIU, J.—Upon a request by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.548), we agreed to answer the following question: Does the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938's (29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.) de minimis doctrine, as stated in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) 328 U.S. 680, 692 [90 L.Ed. 1515, 66 S. Ct. 1187], and  [*835] Lindow v. U.S. (9th Cir. 1984) 738 F.2d 1057, 1063, apply to claims for unpaid wages under Labor Code sections 510, 1194, and 1197?

The de minimis doctrine is an application of the maxim de minimis non curat lex, which means “[t]he law does not concern itself with trifles.” (Black's Law Dict. (10th ed. 2014) p. 524.) Federal courts have applied the doctrine in some circumstances to excuse the payment of wages for small amounts of otherwise compensable time upon a showing that the bits of time are administratively difficult [****3]  to record.

We approach the question presented in two parts: First, have California's wage and hour statutes or regulations adopted  [***823]  the de minimis doctrine found in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA)? We conclude they have not. There is no indication in the text or history of the relevant statutes and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders of such adoption.

Second, does the de minimis principle, which has operated in California in various contexts, apply to wage and hour claims? In other words, although California has not adopted the federal de minimis doctrine, does some version of the doctrine nonetheless apply to wage and hour claims as a matter of state law? We hold that the relevant wage order and statutes do not permit application of the de minimis rule on the facts given to us by the Ninth Circuit, where the employer required the employee to work “off the clock” several minutes per shift. We do not decide whether there are circumstances where compensable time is so minute or irregular that it is unreasonable to expect the time to be recorded.

The factual background, as recounted in the Ninth Circuit's request for certification unless otherwise indicated, is as [****4]  follows: On August 6, 2012, plaintiff Douglas Troester filed the original complaint in an action in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of himself and a putative class of all nonmanagerial California employees of defendant Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks) who performed store closing tasks from mid-2009 to October 2010. Troester worked for Starbucks as a shift supervisor. Starbucks removed the action to federal district court and moved for summary judgment on the ground that Troester's uncompensated time was so minimal that Starbucks was not required to compensate him.

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5 Cal. 5th 829 *; 421 P.3d 1114 **; 235 Cal. Rptr. 3d 820 ***; 2018 Cal. LEXIS 5312 ****; 169 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P61,887; 2018 WL 3582702

DOUGLAS TROESTER, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. STARBUCKS CORPORATION, Defendant and Respondent.

Notice: As modified Aug. 29, 2018.

Subsequent History: Modified and rehearing denied by Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 2018 Cal. LEXIS 6398 (Cal., Aug. 29, 2018)

Prior History:  [****1] Ninth Circuit, No. 14-55530. D.C. No. 2:12-cv-07677-GAF-PJW

Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 680 Fed. Appx. 511, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23587 (9th Cir. Cal., June 2, 2016)Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 2016 Cal. LEXIS 6801 (Cal., Aug. 17, 2016)


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