Starbucks is a gigantic and recognizable company, so it’s not surprising that it deals with a lot of lawsuits. Some are smaller and don’t make news, while others are considerably larger and affect more people than we realize. Just last week, Starbucks lost a seriously important lawsuit, and you should be aware of the implications (especially if you live in California).
According to GrubStreet, late last week the California Supreme Court ruled against Starbucks in a wage-theft case. This could have widespread implications for wage policies all throughout the state, and is considered a landmark case.
Here are the basics: In 2012, Starbucks employee Douglas Troester, a former shift supervisor, filed a lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit claimed that he and other employees were regularly asked to do work after they had already clocked out. Under the policy, Troester said he missed out on about $100 of pay over time. The lawsuit went on a long time. In 2014, Starbucks used the Fair Labor Standards Act to win the case. The Act is from 1946 and dismisses wage disputes that are very small. Legal Reader says, “The court alleged it would be impractical to require Starbucks to record each small, incremental amounts of time employees spent doing such tasks. Employees would also need to estimate the additional time they were at the store, which could lead to inaccurate reporting.”
It seemed like it was over, and Starbucks won. But Troester appealed the decision.
Last Friday, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided to overturn the case because they felt that Act did not apply to California’s labor laws. Justice Goodwin Liu wrote: “$100 is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries or cover a month of bus fares. What Starbucks calls ‘de minimis’ is not de minimis at all to many ordinary people who work for hourly wages.”
Starbucks worker wins lawsuit over 13 hours of off-the-clock pay. California supreme court says extra minutes add up: ‘That’s enough to pay a utility bill or buy a week of groceries’. pic.twitter.com/LO6ojuhKjA— Catering Services International (@CatServInt) August 1, 2018
This is a pretty big deal, as California has a bad wage-theft problem. A study conducted by labor activist organizations Good Jobs First and Jobs With Justice found that more than half of the wage-theft cases brought against U.S. corporations since 2000 originated in California, which… yikes. So for the court to rule in Troester’s favor is pretty important.
Bryan Lazarski, an attorney in Los Angeles, told Legal Reader that “he expects the ruling to open the door to additional lawsuits but he also expects lawsuits that ‘test the boundary of what this case says’ to determine how much time spent doing work off the clock is enough to warrant compensation.”
In other words, this could change the way California handles wage-theft cases, and that’s a pretty big deal.
To learn more about worker’s rights, read up on the Department of Labor’s website.