In a new class action filed recently against a hospital housekeeping company, employees allege their employer’s fingerprint scanning time-tracking system runs afoul of privacy laws. The Pennsylvania-based company Xanitos Inc. now faces the lawsuit in federal court in Illinois, claiming the company violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The California Supreme Court has ruled that California employers cannot rely on the federal de minimis doctrine to avoid claims for unpaid wages on small amounts of time. Under the de minimis doctrine, employers may be excused from paying workers for small amounts of otherwise compensable time if the work is irregular and administratively difficult to record. Federal Courts have frequently found that daily periods of approximately 10 minutes are de minimis even though otherwise compensable.
In Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, the California Supreme Court held that California wage and hour laws have not adopted the FLSA’s de minimis doctrine. As a result, Starbucks was not permitted to avoid paying an employee who regularly spent several minutes per shift working off-the-clock. The Supreme Court acknowledged, however, that there may be circumstances involving “employee activities that are so irregular or brief in duration that it would not be reasonable to require employers to compensate employees for the time spent on them.”
In AHMC Healthcare, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. B285655 (June 25, 2018) (“AHMC Healthcare”), California’s Second District Court of Appeals upheld an employer’s use of a payroll system that automatically rounds employee time up or down to the nearest quarter hour. Although the California Supreme Court has not yet addressed this issue, AHMC Healthcare aligns with decisions from the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, many federal district courts, and California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals, which also upheld time-rounding practices.
A California Court of Appeal recently found that California employers can lawfully apply the federal standard for rounding. This standard is set forth in 29 CFR Sec. 785.48(b), and previously has been adopted by California’s Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”). 29 CFR Sec. 785.48 (b) permits an employer to round an employee’s starting time and stopping time to the nearest 5 minutes, or one-tenth, or quarter of an hour, assuming the rounding will not result in a failure to compensate the employees, over time, for all the time they have actually worked. The DLSE had previously adopted this standard in its Enforcement Manual. In the October 29, 2012 published decision in See’s Candy Shops v. Superior Court of San Diego County, No. D060710, the court concluded that the federal/DLSE standard is legal in California, if the employees are fully compensated over a period of time. See also Alonzo v. Maximus, Inc. (C.D. Cal. 2011) 832 F.Supp.2d 1122, 1126. (“[t]his ‘regulation permits employers to use a rounding policy for recording and compensating employee time as long the employer’s rounding policy does not ‘consistently result in a failure to pay employees for time worked.’ ’ ”). The Court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the federal regulation is inconsistent with California Labor Code Section 204, which provides that “all wages [other than certain specified exceptions] are due and payable twice during each calendar month.” Plaintiff essentially argued that employers should be required to engaged in a mini actuarial process at the time of payroll. The Court rejected this argument.