A ruling last month by the California Supreme Court highlights the state-by-state variance in payment for workplace security screening time and hence the need for staffing buyers and providers to reevaluate their policies.
The California court unanimously ruled Apple Inc. must pay store employees for time spent in security lines, waiting for managers and/or security personnel to check their personnel bags and cell phones for possible theft. The issue was previously settled at the federal level, but it continues to develop as a matter of state law, Bloomberg Law reported.
The Apple case is a matter of control, according to the California court. “Apple’s exit searches are required as a practical matter, occur at the workplace, involve a significant degree of control, are imposed primarily for Apple’s benefit, and are enforced through threat of discipline,” Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the Feb. 13 decision. “Thus, according to the ‘hours worked’ control clause, plaintiffs must be paid.”
Apple may tailor its bag-search policy as narrowly or broadly as it desires and may minimize the time required for exit searches by hiring enough security personnel or employing adequate security technology, the ruling states. But it must compensate those employees to whom the policy applies for the time spent waiting for and undergoing these searches.
The decision is retroactive for employees, and Dealerscope reported Apple will have to pay as much as $60 million to 12,400 former and current employees at 52 Apple stores across California.
Ruling Contrasts Federal Case
Despite addressing the same problem, the California ruling in the Apple case differs from a Federal ruling in 2014 in which a unanimous US Supreme Court ruled companies do not have to pay workers for time workers spent waiting to go through security screenings. In Integrity Staffing v. Busk, staffing firm workers sought payment for their time spent waiting in security screening lines when leaving the warehouse of staffing client Amazon.com after each shift. The case was filed in 2010, and a federal court in Nevada ruled in favor of Integrity in July 2011; however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 reversed the lower court’s decision related to time spent in the security line, ruling it was an integral part of the employees’ work. The case then went to the US Supreme Court, which rejected the Ninth Circuit’s decision, saying the screenings were not an integral part of the worker’s jobs, and therefore are non-compensable.
Since that federal ruling, workers — and their legal teams — have looked to laws in individual states to advance wage claims, as state laws can be more stringent than established federal laws. States including Kentucky, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have addressed the issue or are in the process of doing so, according to Bloomberg Law.
“That is why both of these decisions are not really in conflict and they are both probably right as far as the law they were interpreting says,” explains George Reardon, an attorney who works with staffing firms.
Reardon likens the Apple case to one years ago in which temporary workers, employed by staffing firms, sought payment for time spent at interviews with the staffing firm’s clients. In both cases, the California rule was stricter than the federal rule.
“The timekeeping issue is going to come up more, and the reason is the responsibility theory of, ‘Whose business is it?’” Reardon says. Normally paying people correctly is “squarely on the staffing firm’s side.” But when the client imposes security screening requirements, it might be best if staffing providers and buyers agree to add a small amount of time to contingent workers’ timecards to compensate for time spent in security lines. Staffing firms are in the business of selling time, and they need to protect their assigned workers from being short-changed.