The California Supreme Court recently decided a Wage Claim Case. This Wage Claim Case may have implications with respect to California Workers’ Compensation Law. The case is Frlekin vs. Apple, Inc. 2020 Cal. LEXIS 547. This case involved the issue of whether an Employee who is off the clock but required by their Employer to do something should be entitled to receive wages for that time.
The case involved Apple, Inc.. From the facts, it would appear that they had concerns of Employee Theft. Their concerns would appear that the theft would occur when the Employees would leave the store. As a result of this, they developed a policy in which they searched their employees as they would leave the stores. Their employees, while waiting to be searched and during these searches, however, were clocked out and did not earn wages during either the waiting time or the search.
The Supreme Court “concluded that plaintiffs’ time spent on Apple’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, or personal Apple technology devices, such as iPhones, voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience is compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of Wage Order 7.”
WHAT WERE THE FACTS OF THE CASE?
Per the Supreme Court, the facts were as follows:
“Defendant Apple Inc. (Apple) is a leading personal technology provider. It operates retail stores worldwide, including 52 in California, that display and sell Apple products.
Apple requires its retail store employees to undergo exit searches pursuant to its “Employee Package and Bag Searches” policy (hereafter the bag-search policy), which imposes mandatory searches of employees’ bags, packages, purses, backpacks, briefcases, and personal Apple technology devices, such as iPhones. The bag-search policy states:
Employee Package and Bag Searches
All personal packages and bags must be checked by a manager or security before leaving the store.
All employees, including managers and Market Support employees, are subject to personal package and bag searches. Personal technology must be verified against your Personal Technology Card (see section in this document) during all bag searches.
Failure to comply with this policy may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
—Find a manager or member of the security team (where applicable) to search your bags and packages before leaving the store.
—Do not leave the store prior to having your personal package or ba[g] searched by a member of management or the security team (where applicable).
—Do not have personal packages shipped to the store. In the event that a personal package is in the store, for any reason, a member of management or security (where applicable) must search that package prior to it leaving the store premises.
Apple also provides guidelines to Apple store managers and security team members conducting the searches pursuant to the bag-search policy. The guidelines reiterate that “[a]ll Apple employees, including Campus employees, are subject to personal package checks upon exiting the store for any reason (break, lunch, end of shift).” The guidelines instruct Apple managers to “[a]sk the employee to open every bag, brief case, back pack, purse, etc.,” “[a]sk the employee to remove any type of item that Apple may sell,” and “[b]e sure to verify the serial number of the employee’s personal technology against the personal technology log.” The guidelines also direct Apple managers to “ask the employee to unzip zippers and compartments so [managers] can inspect the entire contents of the bag” and “ask the employee to move or remove items from the bag so that the bag check can be completed.” “In the event that a questionable item is found,” the manager must “ask the employee to remove the item from the bag.” The guidelines provide that “Apple will reserve the right to hold onto the questioned item until it can be verified as employee owned.”
The record indicates that Apple employees bring a bag to work for a variety of reasons. For example, some employees bring bags to carry Apple-provided apparel, which employees must wear while working but are required to remove or cover up while outside the store. Others bring bags containing their cell phones, food, keys, wallets, or eyeglasses. Managers estimated that 30 percent of Apple employees bring such bags to work; employees estimated that “nearly all” do.
Apple employees are required to clock out before submitting to an exit search pursuant to the bag-search policy. Employee estimates of the time spent awaiting and undergoing an exit search range from five to 20 minutes, depending on manager or security guard availability. On the busiest days, Apple employees have reported waiting up to 45 minutes to undergo an exit search. As a rule, they are not compensated for this time.” [emphasis added]
HOW DOES THIS CASE IMPACT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES?
This case is important with respect to California Workers’ Compensation Law. As the Supreme Court ruled that the waiting for a mandatory search and the search itself are to be considered as wage-earning acts. If this is the case, then an injury sustained during either this period of waiting or the undergoing mandatory exit search should be considered as work-related. If it is work-related, then that employee is to seek workers’ compensation benefits for that injury.
For example, if a worker tripped and fell while waiting in line to be searched, that would be considered as an industrial injury. Further, if an armed robbery occurred in the store during this waiting period and the worker sustained an emotional injury as a result, this would also be considered as an industrial injury.
WHAT IF I NEED ADVICE?
If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.