What-are-Unpaid-Bag-Checks.jpg (2149×1159)Every now and then, an employer will feel it necessary to check employee bags before staff can leave the facility. This is often due to suspicion of theft and is sometimes a safety precaution to ensure hazardous materials or items don’t leave the workplace by accident. However, there is a current controversy over whether the time spent having one’s bag checked or waiting in line for bag-checking should be paid.

Many employers try to deny payment for bag check time, arguing that no work is getting done so they should not pay. But is this legal? The answer is that unpaid bag checks are only legal sometimes under very specific circumstances. In all other cases, bag checking is a mandatory work activity and therefore must be paid like a work activity. In full.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes an unpaid bag check legal or illegal.

Unpaid Bag Checks are Legal When:

Bringing a Bag is Voluntary for Employees

In 2015, Apple successfully argued that employees were allowed to bring bags, but not required. Therefore, bringing a bag was seen as employees volunteering to have their bags checked. This is valid as long as all bags are completely optional and those without bags can skip the bag check line to leave promptly without waiting.

Bringing a Bag is Not Necessary for Medical Reasons

The previous rulings on optional bags did not cover medical necessity. Un unpaid bag check for ‘voluntary’ bags may only be valid if the bag is not required for medical purposes.

Bag Check Policy is Made Clear and In Writing

Employers cannot simply start taking your time to search bags. A new policy must be written and made clear so that employees can start choosing not to bring bags or planning to not carry bags when arriving or departing instead of going through the check. 

Unpaid Bag Checks are Illegal When:

Bringing a Bag is Mandatory

If employees are required to carry a bag for work and then that bag must be searched, this means the time spent during the search is mandatory rather than voluntary. These employees don’t have a choice, they cannot choose to not carry the bag. Therefore, they cannot choose to avoid the bag check line. This means they must be paid for mandatory time spent at work.

All Employees are Checked, Bag or No Bag

In many workplaces, employees must line up for the check before exiting whether or not they brought a bag. If the wait is necessary or if pockets as well as bags are checked, both are considered a mandatory delay. Mandatory delays must be paid, even if bags are only checked if an employee who has waited in line has a bag.

An Employee’s Bag is Medically Necessary

If an employee is medically required to carry a bag and then they are forced to wait for bag check due to this necessity, an unpaid bag check could be seen as discrimination. While other employees may ‘volunteer’ for bag checking unpaid, employees who medically must carry a bag are being forced to spend unpaid time at work for something they cannot control or volunteer to avoid.

Bag Check Policies are Not Made Clear Before the Check

Surprising employees with bag check policies or random checks so that they cannot choose to avoid the check is also illegal. If the policy has not been made clear in writing and clearly explained, then employees can’t voluntarily avoid or agree to the check. The only exception is if the policy, written and made clear, includes randomization to the bag checking days.

Bag Check Policies Encroach on  Legal Breaks

Employers must provide employees with two ten minute breaks and one half-hour break per eight-hour shift. Bag checks cannot be used to deny employees their rest time, especially of the ten-minute breaks where waiting for a bag check can eat the entire paid break period.

Employees Hours are Cut for Bag Check Time

Finally, employees cannot cut your hours below minimum in order to deny you payment for bag checking time. If you are forced to clock out early so that bag checks can be done ‘on time’ or clock in late after bag-check then forced to leave ‘on time’, this nickel-and-diming practice can become illegal. Particularly if it lowers your hours below minimum weekly hours, minimum pay for the week, or defies your employment contract.

Is your time being stolen by illegal unpaid bag checking policies? Let us help! Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we are dedicated to defending employee rights from the penny-pinching policies of exploitative employers. Your time is valuable to you and you deserve to be paid for mandatory or abusive bag checking policies. Contact us today to find out more.

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