An interesting case recently arose in the courts. In 2013, two workers from Apple stores in New York and Los Angeles filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Apple. The claim was that they were not being paid for all the hours they had worked.
Apple store employees are required to stand in line at the end of their shifts and wait for a manager to check their bags. This is meant, in part, to ensure that workers aren’t stealing from the store. The lines are sometimes up to 30 minutes long, and refusing to get their bags checked can lead to the worker’s termination, according to the lawsuit.
Federal law does not require wages for mandatory security lines
The federal class-action was dismissed in 2015. The District Court judge accepted Apple’s argument that the employees could avoid waiting in the lines if they simply didn’t bring bags to work.
Moreover, in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk that time spent in post-shift security checks is not considered hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The plaintiffs were not entirely finished, however. The class of workers in California took their case to the California Supreme Court in the hope that California law would be more favorable. That court has just ruled that California law does require Apple to pay employees for time spent waiting in post-shift security lines.
This is because California law defines “hours worked” as any time the employer has control over the employee and “suffers or permits” the employee to work. The California Supreme Court found that it would be “draconian” to say that the employees could avoid the lines by refraining from bringing bags to work.
The interesting thing for employers outside of California is that the FLSA contains some similar language to that of the California statute. It also defines “hours worked” as all time during which the “employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed work place,” and “employ” means “to suffer or permit to work.”
So, while Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk remains the federal precedent, it is unlikely that the FLSA could be held to cover post-shift security checks. However, the California Supreme Court’s reasoning is persuasive and could be considered by other courts.
If you have employees in California, you will need to pay them for any time spent waiting in line for security checks. For advice on your own state’s laws, contact an experienced employment law attorney.