De minimis non curat lex literally means the law does not concern itself with trifles. And that was the court’s decision two years ago, when a former Starbucks employee brought a class action for unpaid wages under California law. Donning and doffing typically refers to time spent putting on or taking off special work clothes or logging into and out of computer systems for work. Plaintiff Douglas Troester claimed his off-the-clock donning and doffing duties included closing out of the store’s computer system, activating the alarm, walking out of store, locking the door, and walking co-workers to their cars, or staying with them when they waited for rides. Sometimes he moved the store’s patio furniture inside and reopened the store if an employee forgot their personal belongings.
In Douglas Troester v. Starbucks Corp. et al, Case No. CV 12-7677 GAF (PJWx), Troester claimed:
• failure to pay minimum and overtime wages;
• failure to provide accurate written wage statements;
• failure to pay all final wages;
• and unfair business competition.
As its defense Starbucks used the de minimis doctrine and asked the court to dismiss the case.
Under the de minimis doctrine, courts must take into account:
1. the aggregate amount of compensable time
2. the practical administrative difficulty of recording the additional time
3. the regularity of the additional work
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The de minimis doctrine falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but does it apply to California law? Troester argues that the trial court’s decision based on the de minimis doctrine was inappropriate because that doctrine is based on federal law and does not apply to California wage claims. Meanwhile, employers’ clocks are ticking…