The California Supreme Court ruled that employers have to pay workers for the time they spend off-tasking, such as after work.
The decision made this week means a victory for Labor Representatives. Hourly workers spend minutes with unpaid duties is wage hijacking. Business groups say the verdict will encourage frivolous processes and cause business costs.
A federal law, the so-called Fair Labor Standards Act, allows companies to avoid compensation for employees who are legally proven to be trivial or overly hard
In its majority opinion, the California Supreme Court said that the federal rule in the State does not apply to certain undecided tasks performed by employees.
It's the result of a six-year legalization of a fight between Starbucks and Douglas Troester, a Californian worker who sued the company for failing to pay him for graduation work, which he said would be four to ten extra minutes after it expired required.
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Shaun Setareh, one of the lawyers representing Troester, said it was "wage theft."
"It's easy. He protects people's salary payments to fatten up the wallets of CEOs and large corporate shareholders," he said.
Setareh called the decision a "game changer" that had "effects on every single employer in the state."
Starbucks said in a statement that he was "disappointed" with the decision sending the case back to the 9th US Court of Appeals.
"We will wait for further disposition of the case before the 9th Circuit The appeal process continues," the statement says.
The US Chamber of Commerce, the country's largest lobby group, has fought the case with Starbucks. The organization said in a brief complaint to the California Supreme Court that employers in California "are already vulnerable to litigation costs resulting from inappropriate pay and time lunches."
"The court should not increase this risk by the consent of complainant Douglas Troester and unworkable position," the statement said. The Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for an opinion on the decision.
The pay gap starts earlier than you might think
The majority opinion of California's top court suggests that federal law is antiquated, and smartphones or other modern gadgets can be used to track an employee's time to the minute to pursue.
"As the facts show here, a few extra minutes of work per day can add up," says the opinion of the California Supreme Court.
The decision leaves room for interpretation.
"We leave it open whether there are pay demands that employ workers so irregularly or at short notice that it would not be reasonable to ask employers to compensate for the time," the majority opinion says.