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California Employers Must Compensate Employees for Time Spent on Pre- and Post-Shift Tasks

By Johnathan Koonce

California employers must compensate employees for all regularly occurring but difficult to track, pre-shift and post-shift tasks that take just a few minutes to complete, under a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision.FN1 In Rodriguez v. Nike Retail Services, Inc., a class of retail workers sought payment for time undergoing exit inspections and security checks that occurred after they clocked out, and which often last less than a minute. The employer argued such claims were barred by the federal de minimis doctrine, which “precludes recovery for otherwise compensable amounts of time that are small, irregular, or administratively difficult to record.”

Because California’s wage and hour laws are highly “employee-protective,” the court in Rodriguez concluded employers cannot evade their obligation to compensate California employees when they are required to spend “brief” or “trifling” amounts of time completing tasks on a regular basis or as a regular feature of the job—including pre- and post-employment inspections.FN2

Takeaway

To minimize exposure, California employers should examine whether employees regularly perform tasks or requirements “off the clock” and assess the need to restructure their policies or procedures to account for such time.

Footnotes:

FN1:   See Rodriguez v. Nike Retail Services, Inc., 928 F.3d 810 (9th Cir. 2019). The Ninth Circuit hears appeals from courts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The Rodriguez decision applied and clarified a 2018 decision, Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 421 P.3d 1114, 1116 (Cal. 2018), in which the California Supreme Court held the federal de minimis doctrine does not apply to wage and hour claims under California law.

FN2:   See Rodriguez, 928 F.3d at 818 (This rule does not require employers to “account for split-second absurdities,” and it might not apply in cases where work is so “irregular that it is unreasonable to expect the time to be recorded”) (citations omitted).