Troester v. Starbucks Corp., S234969

Citation5 Cal.5th 829,421 P.3d 1114,235 Cal.Rptr.3d 820
Decision Date26 July 2018
Docket NumberS234969
Parties Douglas TROESTER, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. STARBUCKS CORPORATION, Defendant and Respondent.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)

5 Cal.5th 829
421 P.3d 1114
235 Cal.Rptr.3d 820

Douglas TROESTER, Plaintiff and Appellant,
STARBUCKS CORPORATION, Defendant and Respondent.


Supreme Court of California.

Filed July 26, 2018
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing August 29, 2018

Setareh Law Group, Shaun Setareh, Beverly Hills, Thomas Segal, H. Scott Leviant, Santa Barbara; The Spivak Law Firm, David Spivak, Los Angeles; Law Offices of Louis Benowitz, Louis Benowitz, Beverly Hills; Marlin & Saltzman and Stanley D. Saltzman, Agoura Hills, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Anna Kirsch and Hina Shah for Women's Employment Rights Clinic of Golden Gate University School of Law, Bet Tzedek, Centro Legal de la Raza, National Employment Law Project and Legal Aid at Work as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

The Kralowec Law Group, Kimberly A. Kralowec, San Francisco; Kingsley & Kingsley and Ari J. Stiller for Consumer Attorneys of California and California Employment Lawyers Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Rex S. Heinke, Gregory W. Knopp, Mark R. Curiel and Jonathan P. Slowik, Los Angeles, for Defendant and Respondent.

Sidley Austin, David R. Carpenter and Sonia A. Vucetic, Los Angeles, for California Retailers Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Horvitz & Levy, Robert H. Wright, Felix Shafir and Lacey L. Estudillo, Burbank, for Association of Southern California Defense Counsel as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, Karin Dougan Vogel, Daniel De La Cruz, San Diego, Richard J. Simmons and Jason W. Kearnaghan, Los Angeles, for Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, Emma Luevano and Justine Lazarus, Los Angeles, for Employers Group and California Employment Law Council Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.


421 P.3d 1116
5 Cal.5th 834

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's de minimis doctrine, as stated in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) 328 U.S. 680, 692, 66 S.Ct. 1187, 90 L.Ed. 1515, and

5 Cal.5th 835

Lindow v. United States (9th Cir. 1984) 738 F.2d 1057, 1063, apply to claims for unpaid wages under California 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 to record.

We approach the question presented in two parts: First, have California's wage and hour statutes or regulations adopted

235 Cal.Rptr.3d 823

the de minimis doctrine found in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (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 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.

Troester submitted evidence that during the alleged class period, Starbucks's computer software required him to clock out on every closing shift before initiating the software's "close store procedure" on a separate computer terminal in the back office. The close store procedure transmitted daily sales,

5 Cal.5th 836

profit and loss, and store inventory data to Starbucks's corporate headquarters. After Troester completed this task, he activated the alarm, exited the store, and locked the front door. Troester also submitted evidence that he walked his coworkers to their cars in compliance with Starbucks's policy. In addition, Troester submitted evidence that he occasionally reopened the store to allow employees

421 P.3d 1117

to retrieve items they left behind, waited with employees for their rides to arrive, or brought in store patio furniture mistakenly left outside.

On March 7, 2014, the district court granted Starbucks's motion for summary judgment. The district court's decision assumed that each activity identified above was compensable for purposes of its analysis. The undisputed evidence was that these closing tasks required Troester to work four to 10 additional minutes each day. As the district court stated: "The undisputed facts show that, on average, Plaintiff activated the alarm approximately one minute after he clocked out. Moreover, he did so within two minutes on 90 percent of the shifts and within five minutes on every shift. Once he set the alarm, Plaintiff needed to exit the store within one minute to avoid triggering the alarm. And Plaintiff testified that it took 30 seconds to walk out of the store. He then locked the door, which took 15 seconds to 'a couple minutes,' and walked his coworkers to their cars, which took 35 to 45 seconds. On rare occasions—once every couple of months—Plaintiff spent a few minutes letting coworkers back inside the store or bringing in patio furniture that he forgot to retrieve before clocking out."

235 Cal.Rptr.3d 824

Over the 17-month period of his employment, Troester's unpaid time totaled approximately 12 hours and 50 minutes. At the then-applicable minimum wage of $8 per hour, this unpaid time added up to $102.67, exclusive of any penalties or other remedies. The district court further assumed that the additional time would be administratively difficult to capture. Finally, while acknowledging that Troester's store closing activities were regularly occurring, the district court found that regularity not significant to its conclusion that the uncompensated time was de minimis. The district court concluded that the de minimis doctrine applied and granted summary judgment against Troester on his claim for unpaid wages as well as his derivative claims for failure to provide accurate written wage statements, failure to pay all final wages in a timely manner, and unfair competition.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit recognized that although the de minimis doctrine has long been a part of the FLSA, this court has never addressed whether the doctrine applies to wage claims brought under California law. The court further recognized that in some instances California law has been interpreted to be more protective of employee wage claims than federal law. Against this background, the Ninth Circuit certified the question presented to this court.

5 Cal.5th 837


In Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) 328 U.S. 680, 66 S.Ct. 1187, 90 L.Ed. 1515 ( Anderson ), the high court considered whether certain types of employee activity constituted compensable work time. The worksite was a pottery plant covering eight acres, and the principal question was whether the employees should be compensated for the time spent walking to and from their workstations and engaging in certain preliminary and postliminary activities. The court held that generally such time is compensable: "Since the statutory workweek includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer's...

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