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California Employer Security Checks & Bag Checks: Unpaid Wages

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California wage law: Security checks, bag checks - paid wages for all time worked

Does your employer make you wait in a security line before or after your shift? Or does the company have a bag check that you have to go through?  If so, under California law, you are entitled to get paid for that time that you have to go through a security check or bag check. Under California law, you have to be paid for all the time that you work. 
 

The proof is in the pudding 

The proof is in the pudding is an idiom. According to the Urban Dictionary:

The original phrase is "The proof of the pudding is in the eating!" Which means you have to eat the pudding to know what's inside of it.

The modern version of "The proof is in the pudding." Implies that there is a lot of evidence that I will not go through at this moment and you should take my word for it, or you could go through all of the evidence yourself.

Here, I mean it both ways. Let me explain.
 
When I did a Google search for “California wages - security check lines” or variations of that theme, many - if not most - of the websites on the first page of Google say that time spent in mandatory security lines is not compensable work time. They are all simply wrong.

Most of these websites are relying on the Amazon  U.S. Supreme Court case (called Integrity Staffing Solutions, concerning workers that worked at an Amazon fulfillment center in Nevada) and the Nike U.S. District court case.
 
First of all, the Amazon/ Integrity Staffing   case was is not based California law - it is based on federal law - the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk (2014) 135 S. Ct. 513. So this case has no bearing on California law.

The Nike District Court simply got it wrong. The Court said that the time waiting in line was “de minimus.”  Meaning, not compensable. Rodriguez v. Nike Retail Servs. (N.D.Cal. Sep. 12, 2017, No. 14-cv-01508-BLF) 2017 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 147762, at *2.). 
 
The Nike Court was wrong at the time and the Nike Court was especially wrong now that the California Supreme Court has held that all regular work time in California is compensable and held that the de minimus doctrine has no application under California law.
 
The de minimis doctrine is not applicable to the regularly recurring activities.  Troester v. Starbucks Corp. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 829, 848. Waiting in security lines and bag check lines are certainly “regularly occurring activities" in warehouses, factories, retail stores and other California workplaces.

But getting back to this whole pudding thing. We have had some success in security line cases.

This is not to suggest that I am guaranteeing  you money or wages for your security line case. Every case is different and there are no guarantees in life or law. But, the proof is in the pudding.

It’s like needing heart surgery. Who are you going to have do it? Some doctor that read in a book that the surgery couldn’t be successfully performed or the heart surgeon that does that surgery regularly, with very happy patients?  Just saying.
 
Many industries in California routinely force employees to go through security checks and/or bag checks, such as: warehouses, retail stores, restaurants, factories, agriculture, and the like. 
 
These companies are illegally not paying workers for the time that they have to go through security lines or bag checks. 
 
If this is you, you are probably owed a lot of unpaid wages - - much more than you may have thought. 

In this article, we answer the following questions and more: 

Am I supposed to be paid in California when I wait in a security check?
 
What is California law on getting paid when I have to wait in a security line at work? 
 
What if the wait in the security check or bag check is only for a minute or so? Am I still supposed to get paid for that time? 
 
Are workplace security checks illegal under California law?
 
Are workplace bag checks illegal under California law? 
 
I work in a warehouse and I have to get my bags checked going in and out of the company, am I owed wages for that time? 
 
Am I owed wages when I have to wait in a security line at work? 
 
Am I supposed to be paid for time spent on security check or bag check lines at work?  
 
Am I supposed to be paid when my employer is checking my bags when I come in and/or out of work?
 
What if I don’t measure every day how long I have to wait at the security check or the bag check? 
 
What else am I owed if I have to wait in security lines or bag check line? 
 
Am I entitled to paycheck stub violations if I am not paid for going through security  and/or bag checks at work? 
 
What if I have to go through a security line during my rest breaks, is this against California law? 
 
What if I have to go through a security line or bag check during my meal breaks, is this against California law? 
 
Can I get waiting time penalties if I have to through a security line or bag check? 
 
What if I need help right now?
 

Why is Bill Turley asked to testify concerning wage law legislation at the
California State Senate and the California Assembly? 

 
California wage law - Security Checks and Bag Checks - Unpaid Wages

 

Because Bill is known as a No B.S. straight-shooter lawyer

 

Believe it or not, Bill is known for being a no B.S. straight-up lawyer. Besides being known as one of the leading experts on this area of the law in California, one of the reasons why Bill is asked to testify at legislature hearings is because he is known for being straightforward and blunt. He is known for being no B.S., with no lawyer-talk, no double-talk.

 

Need help right now?

 

You can call us 619-304-1000 or contact us on the contact form on this web page

Am I supposed to be paid in California when I wait in a security check line?

 
Yes. Under California law, you must be paid for all hours that you work. Meaning, all time you are under the control of your employer or subject to duties of your employer. This includes time going through a security check and/or bag check. 
 

What is California law on getting paid when I have to wait in a security line at work? 

There are three main sources of California employment law - the California Wage Orders and the California Labor Code and the California Courts enforcing these laws. Under the California Wage Orders, employees must be paid for all time worked. 
 
Putting aside the all the great substantive law to protect California workers that has came out of the landmark California Supreme Court case - Brinker vs. Superior Court, the Brinker case is all about enforcing California’s strong worker protection laws. 
 
One of the worker protection concepts in the Brinker decision is:
 
In light of the remedial nature of the legislative enactments authorizing the regulation of wages, hours and working conditions for the protection and benefit of employees, the statutory provisions are  to be liberally construed with an eye to promoting such protection.
Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1026-1027.

This means that California’s Wage Orders and Labor Code are to be interpreted to protect workers. 
 
I know the Brinker case very well, because I represented the workers in the historic Brinker Supreme Court case. 
 
Under the California Wage Orders, employees have to be paid for all time worked. Troester v. Starbucks Corp. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 829, 847. If you are under the control of the employer, then that is usually “time worked” under California law.
 
California law requires that employers pay employees at least the minimum wage for all "hours worked," see generally Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575 (2000). This includes "the time during which an employee is under the control of an employer and . . . the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so," Wage Order 9-2001. (All the California Wage Orders have the same provision). McCowen v. Trimac Transp. Servs. (Western), 311 F.R.D. 579, 588, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171591, *24.
 
For example, if there is a  check-in procedure - due to security and/or lines at clock-in machines, then you are under the control of the employer. Under most circumstances, you are entitled to being paid for this time. 
 

You’re under the control of the employer while you are waiting in security lines

In the Morillion California Supreme Court case, the workers had to ride on the employer’s bus while going to their job work in fields. The California Supreme Court held that this time in the employer’s bus was compensable work time, because they were under the control of the employer. Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575, 586 (2000).
 
The District Court in Celestica Corp. case compared the compulsory riding on the employer’s shuttle bus in Morillion to employer’s security lines:
 
In Morillion, the plaintiffs were not free to come and go during their pre-shift period because they were held captive within their employer's shuttle. 22 Cal. 4th at 586-88. Similarly, here, Plaintiffs must arrive at the Celestica facility early to pass through security, clock in, and be at their work station at the start of their scheduled shifts.
While waiting in line and waiting inside the Celestica facility before their shift starts, Plaintiffs, as in Morillion, may not "use the time effectively for their own purposes." Id. at 586 (internal citation and quotation omitted) ("during the bus ride, plaintiffs could not drop off their children at school, stop for breakfast before work, or run other errands requiring the use of a car. Plaintiffs were foreclosed from numerous activities in which they might otherwise engage if they were permitted to travel to the fields by their own transportation."). Although here, Plaintiffs may engage in limited personal activities  during this period, such as conversing with other co-workers socially or drinking a cup of coffee, "[a]llowing plaintiffs the[se] circumscribed activities … does not affect, much less eliminate, the control [the employers] exercise[] …." Id. As the Morillion court pointed out, workers commonly listen to music, drink coffee, and converse with coworkers while working, and yet are not denied pay for doing so. Id. Plaintiffs' evidence, like that presented in Morillion, shows they were under the control of their employer during this pre-shift period. Cervantez v. Celestica Corp., 618 F. Supp. 2d 1208, 1215, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47406, *16-17
 
The Celestica Corp. court nailed it. 

But wait - doesn't the Overton vs. Walt Disney Co. case mean that employers don't have to compensate workers for time spent in security lines?  .... Nope, here's why...

In the Celestica Corp. case, the employer raised the Overton vs. Disney case. The Celestica Corp. court explained why the Overton case doesn't mean that employers don't have compensate employees for tie spent in mandatory security lines: 


In Overton v. Walt Disney Co., plaintiffs sought compensation for time spent parking and taking a shuttle to their jobs at Disneyland. See 136 Cal. App. 4th 263, 266-68, 38 Cal. Rptr. 3d 693 (2006). The court held that the plaintiffs' time on the shuttle buses was not compensable because, unlike in Morillion, Disney did not require its employees to take its shuttle buses; instead, they could have "walked, biked, [taken] the Metrolink train, or [been] dropped off [or] picked up." Id. at 271 & n.12.

Here, in contrast, Defendants require Plaintiffs to go through the security line before work. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' claim for compensation for time spent in Defendants' security line is consistent with the standard set in Overton. Cervantez v. Celestica Corp., 253 F.R.D. 562, 571, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62456, *17-19, 71 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 284. (Emphasis added). 

The key is that in Overton, the workers could come to work anyway that they wanted. They didn't have to take the Disneyland shuttle bus. For example, the workers could have been dropped off at the Disney entrance by a friend or Uber.  With mandatory security lines, workers are given a choice. They have to stand in line and subject themselves to the control of the employer. 

Mandatory security lines vs. "voluntary" bag searches 

At the time of this article, the Ninth Circuit certified this question to the California Supreme Court: 
 
Is time spent on the employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages or bags voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 7?
Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., 870 F.3d 867, 869  (2017).
 

What this means is that the California Supreme Court is expected to decide this issue.  That was back in 2017 and we are still waiting. I think the California Supreme Court will decide this issue.  And  based upon all of the previous worker friendly decisions by the California Supreme Court, it seems the California Supreme Court will decide this in a way to protect employees. 

Putting all of that to the side, it should be noted that this is question is couched in a "voluntary" bag search.  Not a mandatory security line or a mandatory bag search. In almost every case that I have been involved with, there is nothing "voluntary" about having to go through a security line or a bag search at the compapny. Everyone must go through it. 

And, for example, even if there is a bag search going in or out of a business (for example a factory or a warehouse); even if you don't bring a bag - you still have to wait in line while the person in front of you in the line has their bag searched. 

 

What if the wait in the security check or bag check is only for a minute or so? Am I still supposed to get paid for that time?   

Yes. Whether it is one minute or 10 minutes, under California law you are entitled to get paid for all time that you work.
 
This question was answered in the Troester case: 
 
An employer that requires its employees to work minutes off the clock on a regular basis or as a regular feature of the job may not evade the obligation to compensate the employee for that time by invoking the de minimis doctrine. As the facts here demonstrate, a few  extra minutes of work each day can add up. According to the Ninth Circuit, Troester is seeking payment for 12 hours and 50 minutes of compensable work over a 17-month period, which amounts to  $102.67 at a wage of $ 8 per hour. That is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries, or cover a month of bus fares. What Starbucks calls “de minimis” is not de minimis at all to many ordinary people who work for hourly wages.
Troester v. Starbucks Corp. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 829, 847. 
 
Thus, one minute a day in a security line adds up. Under California law, you are entitled to get paid for this time.
 
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Bill Turley was named California's Leading Wage and Hour Class Action Lawyer


Are workplace security checks illegal under California law?... Are workplace bag checks illegal under California law?

It is not illegal under California law for your employer to force you to go through a security check and/or a bag check when you enter and leave the workplace. 
 
What is illegal under California law is when the company doesn’t pay you for this time. 
 

I work in a warehouse and I have to get my bags checked going in and out of the company, am I owed wages for that time? 

Yes, under California law, your employer owes you wages for the time it takes you to go through getting your bags checked and/or in warehouse security line at your workplace. 
 

If I have to go through a security line or a bag check am I having to work off the clock? 

Yes.  Security checks and bag checks are ways that the company makes you work off the clock.
 
When you are going through a security check, security line, bag check and/or a bag check line you are under the control of your employer. It is a requirement in order for you to work.  Since you are under the control of your employer, then you have to be paid for this time under California law.
 
In addition, the company is imposing a duty on you - you have a duty to go through a security check, security line, bag check and/or a bag check line.  When you have a work duty, then you must get paid for that time also.


Am I owed wages when I have to wait in a security line at work? 

Am I supposed to be paid for time spent on security check or bag check lines at work?  

Am I supposed to be paid when my employer is checking my bags when I come in and/or out of work?

 
The answer to all three of these questions is: Yes, you have to be paid for all time when you work in California. The company cane easily fix this and be in compliance with California law.
 
For example, the company can make you clock in or go on the clock BEFORE you go through the security check and/or the bag check. 
 
That is what this is all about, when you get down to it. The company doesn’t want to pay you for this time that it takes to go through the company’s security and/or bag check.
 
Thus, whether it takes one minute or 20 minutes to go through the security check or the the bag check at work, you are entitled to get paid for that time. 
 
You are entitled to get paid for that time at your regular rate or pay, the contract rate and/or the minimum wage. 
 
If it is over 8 hours in the day or 40 hours in the week, then you are entitled to get paid for this time at the overtime rate (time and one-half rate). 
 

What if I don’t measure every day how long I have to wait at the security check or the bag check? 

It is not your responsibility for you to capture all of your work time. In fact, under the California Wage Orders, your employer has the duty to record all of the time that you work. Since your employer didn’t record your work time, California law says that this failure to record your work time shouldn’t fall on you. As the Troester court observed: 
 
But employers are in a better position than employees to devise alternatives that would permit the tracking of small amounts of regularly occurring worktime.... Moreover, as noted, technological advances may help with tracking small amounts of time. An employer may be able to customize and adapt available time tracking tools or develop new ones when no off-the-shelf product meets its needs. And even when neither a restructuring of work nor a technological fix is practical, it may be possible to reasonably estimate worktime—for example, through surveys, time studies .... to compensate employees for that time.
Troester v. Starbucks Corp. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 829, 848. 
 
But there is a really simple solution. Have you and the other employees clock in, scan your card or put in your thumb print BEFORE you go through the security check or bag check on the way into work and AFTER you go through the security check or bag check on the way out work. Super simple. And very effective to capture your work time.


What other unpaid wages am I owed if I have to wait in security lines or bag check line?

 
You are owed wages for the time that you are in the security check, security line, bag check and/or bag check line. Depending on how many hours you worked that day or week, this may be at your regular rate of pay, the minimum wage, double minimum wage for liquidated damages, overtime rate and/or double time rate. 
 
You are also owed paycheck stub violations because your employer didn’t put all hours worked on your pay stubs. This up to $4,000.
 
You are also owed waiting time penalties. Which is 30 days wages. This could be $5,000 to $7,000 or even more, depending on your hourly rate and how many houses you normally work in a day. 
 
You may also be owed an hour’s pay for each meal period violation and an hour’s pay for each rest period violation. 
 
In addition, you may be owed PAGA penalties for each pay period for each of these separate violations, including failing to record your hours worked, not paying for all wages, meal period violations, rest break violations, etc. 
 
In other words, even though we may only be talking about a few minutes a day, this could all potentially, add up. 
 

Am I entitled to paycheck stub violations if I am not paid for going through security  and/or bag checks at work? 

Yes.  If you aren’t being paid for all the time that you work, then your employer is not putting the correct number of hours worked and the wages that you are owed on your pay stubs. These are California Labor Code Section 226 violations. 
 
Under California law, you are owed up to $4,000 for these paystub violations. 
 

What if I have to go through a security line during my rest breaks, is this against California law? 

Under California law, under almost all of the California Wage Orders, you are entitled to a 10 minute rest break as follows: 
 
           3.5 hours  rest break
             6 hours  rest break
           10 hours rest break
           12 hours rest break
           14 hours  rest break 
 
If part of your 10 minute rest break is spent waiting in a security line and/or a bag check; then under California law, you didn’t receive your 10 minute rest break. 
 
In the Troester case, the court cited the Brinker California Supreme Court case and the Augustus vs. ABM California Supreme Court case. I represented the workers in the Brinker case and I wrote the winning Supreme Court brief in the Augustus case, thus I know both of these cases very well. 
 
The Troester court stated: 
 
For example, California law ensures that most nonexempt employees receive two daily 10-minute rest breaks. (Wage Order No. 5, subd. 12(A); see Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 1031.) We have interpreted Wage Order No. 5 as requiring strict adherence to that requirement, and we have scrupulously guarded against encroachments on this 10-minute period. Thus, we recently held that the obligation to relieve employees of any work-related duties during the rest period barred employers from requiring employees to be on call during their rest breaks  and that breach of this duty triggers an employer's obligation under section 226.7, subdivision (b) to pay the employee an additional hour of pay. (Augustus vs. ABM Security, supra, 2 Cal.5th at p. 265.)
 
Augustus vs. ABM Security, though addressing a different issue, is instructive in two respects. First, although the de minimis principle was not explicitly invoked, we implicitly rejected the argument that a de minimis intrusion into a 10-minute rest period would pass muster under the statute. Second, the strict construction of a law prohibiting any interference with or reduction of a 10-minute rest break is difficult to reconcile with a rule that would regard a few minutes of compensable time per day as a trifle not requiring compensation if too inconvenient to record.
Troester v. Starbucks Corp. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 829, 844-845. 
 
Thus, the Brinker, Augustus and Troester cases are very clear, if you have to spend one minute (or even less) of your 10 minute rest period in a security check or bag check, then you didn’t receive your 10 minute rest break under California law. 
 
Thus, you are entitled to one hour’s pay for every rest break that you were not authorized and/or permitted to take. 
 

What if I have to go through a security line or bag check during my meal breaks, is this against California law? 

Under California law, you are entitled to a meal period at when you work 5 hours and second meal period when you work 10 hours. California Labor Code Section 512. 
 
It is clear under Brinker, Augustus and Troester cases, that if you have to spend one minute (or even less) of your 30 minute meal period in a security check or bag check, then you didn’t receive your 30 minute meal break under California law. 
 
Thus, you are entitled to an hour’s pay for every meal period that was not provided to you. Here is a great article on meal break violations and security lines and getting an hour's pay

Clients with big smiles and a settlement check.

Clients that are happy they got their check in a California Wage Case
 

What if I need help right now? 

Call us at 619-304-1000  - If you call after regular business hours, when you leave a message, be sure to repeat your name and telephone number twice, so we get it correctly. And be sure to indicate whether it's okay if we respond by text.

Text us at 858-281-8008 - Be sure and put "new wage case" in your text. 

Or leave us a message on this web page

 
This article is not legal advice. Just because we have gotten so many great results in wage class action cases and PAGA cases, doesn't guarantee any particular result in your case. Every case is different. In other words, you're mileage may vary. 
 
If you have an unpaid wages case or a PAGA unpaid wages case; I suggest that you contact the best honest California unpaid wages lawyer that you can find. 

Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.
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