Waiting for and undergoing mandatory exit searches is considered compensable time.
In many stores, warehouses, and other businesses, employees are required to undergo searches before leaving. In many ways, this policy makes sense, although it can be dehumanizing; it may prevent the theft of goods from the store or warehouse. However, employees were often made to wait for a substantial period of time — after clocking out. This means that employees were not being paid despite still being at work.
In February, the California Supreme Court found that when an employee is required to stay at work for an exit search — even if they are not technically working — they must be compensated for their time. According to a California employment law attorney, this ruling is based on a California wage order that requires companies to pay its workers at least minimum wage for all hours worked, which includes the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer.
The underlying case involved employees at an Apple retail store. Apple requires store employees to undergo mandatory searches of their personal bags, devices, and packages when they leave store premises. If an employee refuses to be searched, they could be disciplined or even terminated. This policy required employees to clock out before having their bags and devices searched. Depending on the availability of managers or security guards to conduct the searches, employees may spend anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes waiting and having their property search — after their shift had ended.
The California Supreme Court found that the time that employees spend waiting and undergoing exit searches is compensable. In other words, employees must be paid for this time, even though they are not technically working. The Court determined that the phrase “subject to the control of an employer” in Wage Order 7 does not mean that the employee must be working. Instead, if an employee is still under their employer’s control, they must be paid for their time. In this case, because employees were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not comply, because employees had to remain on Apple’s premises while waiting and undergoing searches, and because employees had to do tasks such as searching for someone to perform the search and opening bags for the search, they were under the control of Apple.
This decision is important for a number of reasons. First, it clarifies what employees should be paid for — even if they are not working. Second, the Court held that its decision applies retroactively. This means that if your employer has required you to undergo exit searches in the past and hasn’t paid you for it, you may be able to file a claim against them with the assistance of a California employment law attorney.
PLBSH represents workers throughout California who have suffered workplace injustice, including discrimination, harassment, and wage and hour violations. We are committed to helping our employees obtain a fair result. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.