The California Supreme Court once again expanded the scope of what is considered "compensable work" in its recent decision regarding Apple.  In California, employers are required to pay employees for all "hours worked." "Hours worked" includes not only time where employees are "suffered or permitted" to work, but also time where employees are subject to the control of their employer. With the recent decision in Frlekin v. Apple Inc. , the court made clear that employers are obligated to compensate employees for time spent undergoing security checks at the workplace.

Apple requires its retail employees to undergo exit searches if they bring Apple devices or any type of bags (i.e., including purses, backpacks, etc.) to work. Such security checks are required whenever an Apple employee leaves the store – either to take a lunch break or at the end of his or her shift – and usually last between five to twenty minutes. The California Supreme Court held that Apple is required to compensate its employees for the time spent undergoing these security checks even though the security check is only required if an employee brings a bag or Apple device to work. In reaching this conclusion the Court explained that here, Apple employees are required to comply with the bag check policy under threat of discipline, they are confined to the premises as they wait for and undergo the searches, and are compelled to perform specific and supervised tasks such as locating a manager or security officer before the exit search. As such they were subject to the control of the employer. Just because the search could be avoided (i.e., the employee could refrain from bringing a bag or Apple product into the store) does not mean the time is not compensable.

The California Supreme Court issued this decision at the request of the Ninth Circuit, where the case is currently pending. With clarification provided by the Court on California law, the case will now resume in the Ninth Circuit.

The Court's decision against Apple is consistent with its recent decisions expanding the scope of compensable time for employers' "control" of its employees. Similarly, in 2018 the Court held that Starbucks must pay its employees for time spent locking up stores after clocking out. Not only should California employers specifically examine their exit search policies, but they should be on the lookout for any uncompensated time their employees spend under their control – even if such time is conditional.

If you have any questions about the matters discussed in this issue of Compliance Matters, please call your firm contact at (818) 508-3700, or visit us online at

Richard S. Rosenberg
Katherine A. Hren
Charles Foster
Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt, LLP