Employers Must Pay Workers for Security Screening Time, California Supreme Court Rules

Apple employees are asked to open every bag, backpack, purse or briefcase.
Apple employees are asked to open every bag, backpack, purse or briefcase for security screening.
Apple employees are asked to open every bag, backpack, purse or briefcase.

Today, the California Supreme Court ruled that Apple must pay employees for time they spend undergoing security screening of personal items after clocking out at the end of their shift — a question the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal asked the California Supreme Court to answer more than two years ago (Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., No. S243805 (February 13, 2020)).

Apple operates dozens of retail stores in California that display and sell Apple products, and its store managers are instructed to conduct the searches of all employees whenever they exit the store for any reason, including rest and meal breaks and the end of the employee’s shift.

The security screenings are thorough; before leaving the store, employees are asked to open every bag, backpack, purse or briefcase, and if an employee has a personal Apple device, they must verify its serial number against the store’s personal device log. Apple’s policy requires employees to clock out prior to undergoing the screening and, regardless of how long the screening process takes, employees are not compensated for this time. Employees who fail to undergo these screenings can be subject to discipline.

Apple employees brought a class action against Apple alleging that this time should be compensable. After years of litigation, the California Supreme Court agreed, focusing on the degree of control Apple maintains over its employees during the security screenings.

The court held that Apple exercised sufficient control over its employees to constitute “hours worked” that must be paid because Apple:

  • Requires its employees to comply with the search under threat of discipline;
  • Confines its employees to the premises while waiting to undergo the search; and
  • Requires its employees to perform specific tasks during the search such as opening the bags and removing contents.

Although this case was decided under the language of Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 7, it is possible its principles may be applied throughout different industries. In the wake of this decision, employers with exit security searches should consult with legal counsel regarding the practice.

Matthew J. Roberts, Esq., Employment Law Counsel Subject Matter Expert

CalChamber members can read more about this significant court decision and how it may impact them in an upcoming issue of HRCalifornia Extra, a biweekly e-newsletter reporting on the latest labor laws and how they can affect your company. Sign up now! Not a member? See what CalChamber can do for you.

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