Employer Screenings and the FLSA

A reloaded version of Frlekin v. Apple, Inc. (see our prior blog below on that federal case) has recently been filed in San Diego Federal Court—but this new case has a dash of Covid-19 thrown into the mix to spice things up.

In Pipich v. O’Reilly Auto Parts, former O’Reilly employee Jeffrey Pipich has sued the auto parts company for unpaid time spent in employer-mandated screenings. The lawsuit is a proposed nationwide class action claiming O’Reilly should have paid workers at its twenty-eight distribution centers for the time they spent on Covid-19 screenings and security checks. The distribution center employees allegedly spent up to 20 minutes per shift in unpaid screenings in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It will be interesting to see how the Ninth Circuit treats this case in light of the Frlekin ruling which came down in favor of the employees.

 

Here is our blog which we published in 2020 about the Frlekin v. Apple, Inc. matter at which time we predicted implications of the case in light of the Pandemic:

 

Apple could be held liable for $60 million in backpay for having employees be searched on their own time after they clock out!

Up to 12,000 Apple retail workers in California are seeking compensation in Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., a class action lawsuit.  The lawsuit seeks money for uncompensated time spent waiting for exit searches required by Apple’s ‘package and bag search policy’.  The policy requires employees to clock out before undergoing mandatory searches to avoid theft.  After clocking out, the searches then take five to forty-five additional minutes.

Initially the Frlekin federal trial court ruled in Apple’s favor, dismissing the case.  However, the federal court of appeals reversed this decision and instructed the trial court to rule in the employees’ favor as Apple’s defense had no merit, handing the employees a huge win.  For this, federal court of appeals relied on California state law and ruled that, because Apple employees are still under Apple’s control during the searches, the employees have to be paid for their time. This could make Apple liable for up to $60,000,000 in back compensation!

But this ruling will likely have larger effects in California beyond exit searches. In the context of COVID-19, California has adopted Emergency Temporary Standards to tell employers how to deal with the pandemic.  How employees are dealt with from a safety standpoint is central and could involve similar compensation issues.