California-Law-on-Compensation-for-Employee-Bag-Check-Wait-Times.jpg (2149×1159)An increasing number of retail employers in California have begun enforcing employee bag checks when employees leave for the day and, sometimes, any time an employee leaves the premises for lunch or breaks. On its face, this is a little intrusive but otherwise legal. However, there is a serious question at play as to whether employees can and should be paid for the time they spend waiting in line or for a manager so their bags can be checked.

If you and your colleagues are being subjected to bag checks off the clock, we’re here today to let you know whether that lost time should be compensated and what to do if you are being underpaid for mandatory extra time spend at work. 

California Law on Compensation for Bag Check Time

First, it’s important to note that California law draws a fine line between mandatory bag check time and “voluntary” bag check time. If the time spent waiting for your bag (or person) to be checked can be construed as voluntary, then the law may side with your employer on compensation not being necessary. However, mandatory bag checking becomes a part of your job description and should be rightfully paid.

Voluntary vs. Necessary Bag Checking

If your employer can prove that you voluntarily participated in bag checking, then it is likely they can refuse to pay you for check-time. For example, in 2015, Apple successfully argued that employees were granted the privilege to bring in a bag. Only if they chose to exercise that privilege were they subject to the off-the-clock bag check.

However, this did not cover employees who might have a medical requirement to carry a bag. Nor does the 2015 ruling address situations where employers require all employees unilaterally to be subject to a check. Whether this is a mandatory pocket check or for employees required to carry a bag for work purposes.

According to the law, if the time spent in line is absolutely required and there is no “voluntary” choice that can allow you to avoid it, you DO need to be paid for that time. This means that employers who check every single employee even if they don’t carry a bag are required to pay you for time spent waiting. Employees who require you to carry a bag and then require you to have the bag checked must then pay you for time spent waiting and being checked.

How to Avoid Waiting for Unpaid Bag Checks When Carrying a Bag is “Voluntary”

The first piece of advice we can give is for employees whose employer can make a reasonable argument that bag checks are avoidable. If you tend to carry a bag or purse for personal items and only bags are checked, there are ways around waiting in the bag check line each time you want to leave the store.

Reduce the things you come and go with to what can be carried in your pockets. Phone, wallet, keys, and medication only.

Stock up on items you usually carry in your bag to keep in your locker or desk instead. This may require buying two of items you have traditionally had one mobile version of, but it will keep you from losing 15+ minutes at the door every day. If necessary, get yourself a zipping and locking bag to hold all your personal items that always remain at work. When you finally leave for good, you’ll only need to wait through one bag check instead of hundreds.

Supplies that get used up should come in and be stored instead of coming and going. If your boss is cool, consider talking to them about a reasonable place to stash your stuff if you don’t have an assigned desk or locker. If your coworkers are in on it, consider teaming up to share a cubby-supply of certain items instead of packing them in checked bags. 

What to Do If Your Employer is Refusing to Pay for Unilaterally Mandatory Bag Checks

Finally, there’s what you can do if your employer is making bag-check time unavoidably mandatory and are insisting that bag-checks happen off the clock. This is illegal. Just as your employer is required to pay you for being on-call, even if that time isn’t spent “working”, they are required to pay you for any time that isn’t your own that cannot be avoided with “voluntary” choices.

If your employer is forcing you to spend unpaid time at work, you can form a class action with all your other coworkers subject to the same policies. A class action is even more powerful than a single legal complaint because it shows that the employer is blatantly defying California employee compensation law. Those exploring their legal options to demand rightful compensation should bring their concerns to an experienced California employment law attorney. 

Here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we have worked hard to help both individual employees and unified employee class actions to find the justice they deserve and we look forward to hearing about your situation. If you are being subjected to mandatory unpaid bag checks or checks of your person, please contact us today. We can help you determine your options, form a class action, and hold your employer accountable for their unlawful actions.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986