Court: Starbucks, others must pay workers for off clock work

Court Watch

Starbucks and other employers in California must pay workers for minutes they routinely spend off the clock on tasks such as locking up or setting the store alarm, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The unanimous ruling was a big victory for hourly workers in California and could prompt additional lawsuits against employers in the state.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by a Starbucks employee, Douglas Troester, who argued that he was entitled to be paid for the time he spent closing the store after he had clocked out.
 
Troester said he activated the store alarm, locked the front door and walked co-workers to their cars — tasks that he said required him to work for four to 10 additional minutes a day.

Starbucks said it was disappointed with the ruling. In a brief filed with the California Supreme Court, attorneys for Starbucks said Troester's argument could lead to "innumerable lawsuits over a few seconds of time." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a court filing also warned of the possibility of "significant liability" to businesses in the state.

A U.S. District Court rejected Troester's lawsuit on the grounds that the time he spent on those tasks was minimal. But the California Supreme Court said a few extra minutes of work each day could "add up."

Troester was seeking payment for 12 hours and 50 minutes of work over a 17-month period. At $8 an hour, that amounts to $102.67, the California Supreme Court said.

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