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Getting Ready for the Workday: Do California Minimum Wage Laws Cover Time Spent Performing Pre- and Post-Shift Activities?


California law generally requires public and private employers to pay a certain minimum wage to employees “for all hours worked.” California Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders provide “all hours worked” means “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.”

California Supreme Court: Non-Union Correctional Employees May Have a Claim for Wage Order Violations

The California Supreme Court recently addressed the question of whether time an employee spends performing certain pre- and post-work activities qualifies as “hours worked” under the IWC’s definition. The case, Stoetzl v. Department of Human Resources, was a class action filed by a group of California state correctional officers. The plaintiffs alleged they were not paid at least the minimum wage for time spent traveling from the outer gates of their prisons to their assigned posts (and vice versa), as well as for time needed to perform other preliminary activities, such as receiving pre-shift briefings or checking out safety equipment.

The case was tried before a judge in San Francisco Superior Court. The judge divided the class into two groups. The first group included plaintiffs who represented by a union. The second group consisted of non-union supervisory employees.

The judge ultimately rejected both groups set of claims against the Department of Human Resources. An intermediate appeals court later affirmed the trial court with respect to the represented plaintiffs, but held the unrepresented plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed with their case. Both sides then asked the California Supreme Court to review the matter.

The Supreme Court sorted things out as follows:

  • The union-represented plaintiffs are already subject to a collective bargaining agreement, which specifies how much compensation they receive for “duty-integrated walk time,” i.e., how much they get for performing tasks related to their jobs at the start or end of a shift; the CBA therefore preempts any claims these employees have on this issue.
  • For similar reasons, the CBA also prevents the represented employees for pursuing a claim for “walk time,” i.e., the time they spend travelling to and from their respective prison entrances.
  • The supervisors who are not represented by the union “may be entitled to additional compensation for duty-integrated walk time.” Unlike the represented employees, the supervisors’ compensation is governed by the Department of Human Resources’ Pay Scale Manual, which covers pay for “duty-integrated walk time.”
  • However, like the union’s CBA, the Pay Scale Manual also bars the supervisors from demanding any compensation for “entry-exit” walk time.

Contact a California Employment Attorney If You Have Questions About Your Rights

Many public and private employees are required to perform additional work at the start or end of their shifts, for which they do not always receive compensation. If you are an employee in such a position, it may not be clear what your legal rights are under federal and state minimum wage laws. You should therefore contact a qualified California wage and hour attorney, who can review your situation and advise you of any available legal options.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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