What about sales staff stocking shelves?

A while back, I posted about a recent California court ruling about auto repair shops paying its mechanics by the job. The court said that the shops also had to pay the mechanics minimum wage for all the time that they were on the job but not actually working on a car. Because the employer required them there, it had to pay them for the time they spent training, cleaning up, or just waiting for a customer.

I wondered if the same rule applied to sales people paid on commission. Do the stores have to pay them for the time spent not actually selling?

A federal judge in San Diego has said that they sure do (mostly). Nordstroms requires its sales staff to spend up to 3o minutes each work day stocking shelves. It also requires them to be at the store at least 40 minutes before opening or at least 40 minutes after closing. The employees brought a class-action lawsuit, saying that Nordstroms also had to pay them for the time they are at work but not engaged in sales.

Nordstroms pointed out that it made sure that the employees always made at least minimum wage over the course of the day. It also argued that everything that, even though the sales staff wasn’t directly selling, it was at least engaged in activity that promoted sales.

No matter, said the judge. California employees have to be paid for every hour on the job. If they are paid on commission or by the piece, they get minimum wage for all the time when they can’t earn a commission or the piece rate. (Evidently the issue was not very difficult: the Court of Appeals thought Nordstrom’s request to overturn the judge’s ruling was frivolous.)

But no one has answered the question: what about the time that that the staff has to be at the store, but there are no customers to whom to sell? That’s probably never an issue at Nordstroms. In any store where it is an issue, the sales staff should probably be thinking about moving on.

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