- Big Lots Stores will pay $7 million to settle California wage/hour claims brought by a class of approximately 31,500 current and former employees (Hubbs v. Big Lots Stores, Inc., No. 15-cv-01601 (C.D. Calif. Dec. 4, 2019)).
- The plaintiffs allege various claims, including meal and rest period violations, unpaid overtime and minimum wages, non-compliant wage statements, wages not timely paid and not paid at termination and split shift and seating violations.
- The complaint also alleges "gap time" violations for employees on opening and closing shifts at the stores, referring to an alleged gap between an employee's clock in or clock out time and the alarm activation or deactivation timestamp. Employees say they were also forced to undergo unpaid security checks at the end of shifts.
California has particularly stringent wage and hour laws, but even under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the general rule is that non-exempt employees must be paid for all time worked. This is true even if employees work in violation of policy or direct instructions. The employees can be disciplined for working the extra time, but it still must be paid.
Federal law is somewhat less clear about where the line is for time spent on tasks that occur before or after the work day, officially known as "preliminary" and "postliminary" activities. The U.S. Department of Labor sometimes considers these activities work time and sometimes not.
There have been a number of cases dealing with this type of claim recently. CorePower Yoga recently paid $1.5 million to settle claims brought by yoga instructors who claimed they were not paid for the work involved in prepping for classes. And multiple California employers have been sued over post-shift bag checks.
A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case concluded that only principal activities are considered compensable time — the tasks that are an "indispensable" and "integral" part of an employee's duties. The court said the post-shift security screening activities involved in the case did not meet this standard, even though they took nearly 30 minutes every day.
Under federal law, employers aren't legally required to pay for very small amounts of time worked (the legal term is de minimis), but there's no official line as to what's considered de minimis and what's not. When in doubt, the safest thing to do is to pay for the time.