In Frlekin v. Apple Inc., the Supreme Court today holds that employees are entitled to be paid for the time they spend “waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience.”  [Disclosure:  Horvitz & Levy filed an amicus curiae brief in the case.]  It also states its decision applies retroactively.

Answering a question posed by the Ninth Circuit and interpreting an Industrial Welfare Commission wage order, the court’s unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye rejects the argument that only time spent on “required” and “unavoidable” employee activities is compensable.  The court concludes such a rule “would limit the scope of compensable activities, resulting in a narrow interpretation at odds with the wage order’s fundamental purpose of protecting and benefitting employees.”  In any event, the court says, “Apple’s proposed rule conditioning compensability on whether an employee can theoretically avoid bringing a bag, purse, or iPhone to work does not offer a workable standard, and certainly not an employee-protective one.”

The opinion acknowledges that the answer would be different under federal statutory law, but says that law ” ‘differs substantially from the state scheme, [and] should be given no deference.’ ”

The court’s decision is contrary to the ruling by the federal district court in the action.