We have previously written on this blog about the risks employers take when they require workers to do anything while “off the clock.” Americans are protective of their time, and most hourly workers are not willing to show up early and stay late, unpaid, just to satisfy corporate policies that benefit the company.
The latest example of this is a lawsuit that Apple recently proposed to settle for $29.9 million. The actions in the lawsuit occurred from 2009-2015, when Apple required store employees to stay after their shifts and submit to searches of their bags and iPhones. The searches took between five and 20 minutes, and employees were not compensated for that time.
Apple argued protection of property and trade secrets
The lawsuit was filed in California and impacts 14,683 Apple Store employees. Each will receive about $1,286 from the settlement. In court, Apple contended that the searches were needed because of the threat that Apple employees might be stealing merchandise or trade secrets. They also said the only way for employees to get out of the searches was to leave their bags and phones at home when they came to work.
Employees must be paid for time spent on company policy compliance
This Apple lawsuit is very similar to litigation that Amazon has faced in the past for its mandatory and unpaid security checks of employees leaving their shifts at fulfilment centers. It is also similar to another, more recent, lawsuit against Amazon for requiring unpaid Covid-19 illness screenings before starting work shifts.
If you are a business owner and need your employees to spend extra time in order to comply with company policies, the safest way to protect your business from liability is to compensate workers for their time. The extra costs you may incur in payroll would be more than offset by costs saved in litigation.