There have been a number of cases, in different jurisdictions, involving whether time spent undergoing security checks is compensable time.  One issue involved is whether the activity is for the benefit of the employer and if it is so held, then the time will likely be compensable. Another case arising in California demonstrates an application of this principle in a scenario where the employes’ personal cars were inspected.  The case also had a travel time element to it as well.  The case is entitled Huerta v. CSI Electrical Contractors and issued from the Supreme Court of California.

The Supreme Court had been given certain questions for it to resolve by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which initially had the case before it.  The Court ruled that when an employer mandates workers remain on premises while they go through a required check point before leaving, that time is working time.  The Court ruled, in line with other precedent, that the workers “are clearly under [the employer’s] control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches.”

The issue of whether someone waiting in a personal vehicle while waiting to exit had not been resolved in earlier cases.  Now that question has been answered as the Court asserted that “we thus hold that when an employee spends time on his employer’s premises awaiting and undergoing an exit security procedure that includes a vehicle inspection causing delay and that is mandated by the employer for its own benefit, the employee — even when in his personal vehicle — is subject to the employer’s control, and the time is compensable as ‘hours worked’ within the meaning of Wage Order No. 16.”

Then, the Court addressed the travel time issue presented, i.e., whether the time spent driving between a security gate and the employee parking lot was compensable time.  The Court concluded this might be compensable as “employer-mandated travel” but refused to go as far as concluding it was “hours worked.”  The employee claimed that the security exit was the first work location he was compelled to go to, making that travel compensable.  The Court agreed with the Company, finding that the security gate, the only way to access the premises, was not the initial location triggering the payment of travel time.  As the Court aptly noted, “we hold that an employee’s presence at a location is ‘required by the employer’ within the meaning of the wage order when it is required for an employment-related reason other than the practical necessity of reaching the worksite,” the opinion states.

The Takeaway

This issue revolves around the amount of time that is taken going through the gate. Waiting twenty minutes in line at the gate is qualitatively different than simply swiping a pass card when going into an office building. If the employer has a concern, a valid concern for sure, that employees may be pilfering items and wants to ensure that is not the case, then this waiting time is for the benefit of the employer. They are also, clearly, under the employer’s “control.”

Add those up and you have “working time.”…