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Revival of Bag Check Suit Suggests Employers Must Pay Employees for Time Spent Undergoing Exit Inspections

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Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals revived two previously dismissed cases against California employers that claimed that the employers failed to pay workers for time spent undergoing bag inspections before leaving work each day. The Ninth Circuit’s decisions overturned previous rulings that the time spent by employees in post-shift security screens was not compensable under the de minimis doctrine. The Ninth Circuit relied on a recent California Supreme Court opinion that found that the federal di minimis doctrine, which provides that employers do not have to pay workers for short, insignificant and unmeasurable periods of time, does not apply to California wage and hour claims. Relying on this California Supreme Court decision, the Ninth Circuit found that California law requires employers to compensate employees for regular time worked off-the-clock that is more than a minute or brief, but does not require compensation for “split-second absurdities.” Applying this rule to the security bag inspections, the Ninth Circuit found that such inspections that took anywhere from zero seconds to several minutes, multiple times each day, could not, as a matter of law, qualify as “split-second absurdities.” The federal district courts are also reviving similarly dismissed claims. These decisions and the California Supreme Court’s rejection of the federal de minimis doctrine open liability for employers who fail to compensate employees for periods of time spent completing any required task after clocking out but before leaving work, despite how brief these periods of time may be.