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Grinberg: State Supreme Court Rules on 'Bag Check' Time at Work

  • State: California

Have you ever mentioned to someone that you are in the world of workers’ compensation, only to be peppered by employment law questions? Well, get ready for a little bit of that.

Gregory Grinberg

Gregory Grinberg

The California Supreme Court issued an opinion this month in the case of Frlekin v. Apple Inc. Therein, the Supreme Court held that “time spent on the employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees [is] compensable as ‘hours worked.'”

If this sounds familiar, perhaps you recall this earlier blog post.

So what’s the setup? Apple requires employees to go through security checks on their way out, whether at the end of their shifts or if they are just going out for break. This allows Apple to make sure none of its dedicated employees have had products normally for sale “accidentally” fall into their bags. This is a method of preventing “shrinkage,” loss or employee theft (however one might call it).

But, understandably, the budget for security in this sense is limited, so employees often find themselves waiting for extended periods of time just to pass through the security and leave. Well, the issue at hand is whether that time spent going through security is “work” or “not work.”

The Supreme Court decided that it is work. So, time spent in security checkpoints is compensable for wages, affects average weekly wages, and any injuries sustained while going through security would likely be compensable as well. 

So what does that mean for us? What are we, the brave denizens of workers’ compensation, to make of this ruling from the Supreme Court? Well, there’s nothing good in this, that’s for sure.

In my estimation, at least, this opens the door for a wide spectrum of activities undertaken to comply with an employer’s procedures. Workers’ can make the argument that time spent in compliance with basic procedures that would logically fall under the “going and coming” rule and exclude compensability are now part of the workday. 

We’ll see, of course, how this ultimately plays out, but perhaps we can look forward to colorful theories being advanced about why the employer putting a name tag on at home before leaving for work is part of the workday, or why the injured worker’s commute-related injury is industrial because he was thinking about work when he T-boned a third party.

At least we won’t be bored, right?

Gregory Grinberg is a workers' compensation defense attorney at the Law Office of Gregory Grinberg, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This post is reprinted with permission from Grinberg's WCDefenseCA blog.

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