There has recently been a rising debate about the legality of employee bag checks. Not whether bag checks are legal (they are) but whether bag checks should be conducted on or off the clock. This may seem like a trivial manner unless you are one of the thousands of California employees standing in line for five to thirty minutes waiting to have your bag checked every day after you clock out.
Isn’t this mandatory work time? Shouldn’t you be paid for it? The way the law and courts will rule on this issue will likely depend on just how much of your unpaid time the bag checks are taking. Are back checks stealing your paycheck? Let’s find out. We’ll start at the least-problematic type of mandatory bag check and work our way down to the big issue.
Quick Delay at the End of the Day
When you leave for work every day (and perhaps when you arrive), you have a slight delay. You may have to wait in a short line (less than 5 minutes) or wait thirty seconds for the security guard to confirm there’s no bomb in your backpack or purse. This short delay is nothing to worry about, as long as it really is short. You wait five minutes for the slow elevator to rise, before clocking in. You spend a few minutes parking each day without pay. This is a normal part of phasing through office traffic.
Short Wait at Every Break
For some workplaces, employees are required to have their bags checked on the way out of the building or department every time. So if you take a bag out for your break, you have to stop for a check. A quick stop on the way out is usually no concern. Again, if the bag check is about as time-consuming as an elevator, don’t worry about it.
However, if you’re actually being denied break time during the day and being made to stand for bag checks for most of your time off, this is not legally acceptable. You must have the freedom to tend to your own affairs or the break is not legally compliant.
Long Lines After Clock-Out Time
The most notorious bag check problems occur when employees must wait in long lines to enter or leave the building. Some people spend more than half an hour in line before they can clock in and after they clock out. waiting in the bag line. The bag check itself takes only a minute or two, but the line creates a serious burden on your schedule.
At this point, you need to assess whether the bag check is legally part of your job or is somehow defined as “Optional.”
Bag Carrying is Mandatory or Voluntary
Is your employer legally allowed to demand unpaid time for lengthy bag check delays? It depends on whether you can opt-out of the line. If the bag check is completely unavoidable, it is mandatory. If it is mandatory, it’s a work task. If it’s a work task, you must be paid for it.
A bag check is mandatory if:
- Your employer requires you to carry a bag
- You have to wait in line even if you don’t have a bag
- You are required to carry a bag for medical or religious reasons.
If bringing in a bag is optional, find a way to opt-out. Get clever about pockets, storing things in the office, and carrying things in not-bags under your arm. If your employer still makes you wait for an unpaid bag check when you don’t have a bag, it’s actually mandatory and needs to be paid.
Is your workplace bag check stealing your paycheck? Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we are dedicated to defending employee rights down to the finest detail. Bag checks are being used to steal time from employees for the sake of employer security. If your bag check is mandatory and/or being used to prevent you from taking breaks, contact us today. Let us help you defend your employee rights and the rights of your coworkers who are also being mistreated with these policies.