In yet another decision which diverges from federal interpretations of wage laws, the California Supreme Court held that the time employees spent at the end of each shift for an onsite security check was compensable under the applicable wage orders.
In Frlekin v. Apple, employees sued Apple for the implementation of its “Employee Package and Bag Search” policy, which imposes searches of employee bags, packages, purses, backpacks, briefcases, and personal Apple technology devices prior to leaving the store. Employees had estimated that it took between 5 and 20 minutes to conduct the searches on average.
The lower district court ruled in Apple’s favor finding that time spent by class members waiting and undergoing exit searches is not compensable as “hours worked” under California law. The court determined that the “hours worked” control clause in the wage orders requires both that the employer restrains the employee’s actions during the activity in question and the employee has no plausible way to avoid the activity.
The California Supreme Court granted the Ninth Circuit’s request to decide whether time spent on the employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees is compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of the wage orders.
California requires employers to pay their employees at least minimum wage for all “hours worked.” “Hours worked” is defined as “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.”
The Court held that in cases involving onsite employer-controlled activities, the mandatory nature of an activity is not the only factor to consider. The Court considered additional relevant factors including, but not limited to, the location of the activity, the degree of the employer’s control, whether the activity primarily benefits the employee or employer, and whether the activity is enforced through disciplinary measures.
The Court found that the employees were subject to Apple’s control and entitled to compensation for the time spent undergoing security checks. The Court explained that Apple controlled its employees during this time in several ways. First, Apple requires its employees to comply with the bag-search policy under threat of discipline, up to and including termination. Second, Apple confines its employees to the premises as they wait for and undergo an exit search. Third, Apple compels its employees to perform specific and supervised tasks while waiting and during the search.
The Court rejected Appel’s argument that the employee’s activity must be “required” and “unavoidable” in order to be compensable as being inconsistent with the interpretation of the “hours worked” definition and redefining the control clause.
Recent trends have demonstrated that California state courts have little tolerance for permitting uncompensated time, contrary to federal decisions. This decision deviates from federal authority as well, holding that time spent undergoing mandatory security screenings was not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, which only requires employees to be paid for tasks that are “integral and indispensable” to workers’ main duties. In addition, California courts have rejecting the federal “de minimis” doctrine, under which employees aren’t owed pay for short, tough to track periods of work.
Should you have any questions about employee compensation requirements please contact the experts at RPNA at (818) 992-9999.