California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
Feb 22, 2011

Starbucks Gets a Break in Frivolous Wage Case

Topics: Court Decisions, Wage & Hour Issues

As has been widely reported, Starbucks has seen more than its fair share of wage and hour lawsuits in California. At least one frivolous one has now been thrown out. In Price v. Starbucks, the court threw out a former barista's claims for alleged inaccurate wage statements, reporting time pay, and waiting time penalties, finding they had no merit as a matter of law and were not worthy of a trial. The plaintiff, David Price, worked at Starbucks for less than a month and couldn't manage to make it to work as scheduled during that time. He was asked to report to work for a meeting, at which time his employment was terminated. The termination meeting lasted about 45 seconds. Starbucks paid Price two hours of reporting time pay for the meeting. Price apparently felt he should have been paid even more for not working, so he tried to pursue a class action against Starbucks for failure to comply with reporting time pay requirements, failure to issue timely pay on termination of employment, and for waiting time penalties. A class was, of course, never certified because the court found that Price did not have meritorious individual claims against the coffee giant, much less claims that were appropriate for class treatment.

With respect to his reporting time pay claim, Price claimed that he should have been paid for half of his average scheduled day, or for three hours instead of the two hours he was actually paid (for being there 45 seconds). The court rejected Price's argument and held that Starbucks properly paid Price for two hours of reporting time pay and was not required to pay anything more. The court reasoned that Price did not report to work expecting to work a scheduled shift. He was told to report to work for a meeting, which is what he did. In the circumstances, Starbucks was only required to paythe minimum reporting time pay (2 hours) provided for under California law.

With respect to Price's claim for inaccurate/incomplete wage statements, the court easily disposed of this claim because Price failed to allege that he was injured in any way as a result of any alleged incompleteness. The court emphasized that a claim for non-complaint wage statements requires proof of injury.

With respect to Price's claim for waiting time penalties, the court similarly disposed of this claim with ease. Price tried to argue that he was "terminated" when he was removed from the work schedule a few days before he was actually terminated. The court held that being removed from the work schedule did not amount to a termination, that he was actually terminated when he reported to work for the meeting, and that he was timely issued his final paycheck that day.

Although this case is a deserved win for Starbucks, it is also a reminder that the cottage industry of wage and hour lawsuits,even frivolousones, is alive andwell in California, andeven a "win" costs a lot of money in litigation expense. Employersneed to be as diligent as ever in trying to ensure compliance with California's wage and hour laws.

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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