Employee Exit Searches: Stay Compliant and Avoid Liability

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The California Supreme Court recently decided in Frlekin v. Apple, Inc. that time spent by employees waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches is compensable and should be considered “hours” worked under California wage orders. This includes searches of employees’ belongings that have been voluntarily brought to work purely for the employees’ personal convenience.

This ruling has implications for a variety of employers that require employees to pass through some form of an exit search (e.g., security screening, bag check) before exiting the premises. This is a common practice in retail stores and fulfillment centers, among others. When exit searches occur after employees clock out, as is typical, employers may be at legal risk of “off-the-clock work” claims, for which the damages and penalties can be substantial.

Many employers and HR departments now are looking for strategies to ensure employees are paid properly, and to avoid the considerable financial liability associated with litigation, under the Frlekin interpretation of the law. Below, I describe an approach we have used at many companies to address these concerns. The approaches outlined below have been applied both proactively and in response to litigation.

An Approach for Compliance

Ensuring wage and hour compliance in light of this ruling involves a review of policies and practices. While sound policies dictating what employees are supposed to do before exiting the workplace are important, understanding the actual practices of employees is central to ensuring compliance. A variety of data-collection methods are available to study employee practices. Typically, two critical questions need to be answered when conducting a study:

  1. How frequently do employees undergo an exit search after clock-out?
  2. How long does an exit search take?

Observational methods such as time and motion studies have been used for over a century to measure workplace behavior. In recent decades, they have been commonly used to study wage and hour issues, including allegations of off-the-clock work. And, in most cases, observational methods are well suited to answer the above questions.

Through observation, the sequence of events leading up to the exit search, time waiting for the exit search, and the exit search itself can be documented and timed. Three observational methods are often useful in this context: Continue reading here…

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Source: HR Daily Advisor

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