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Don’t Get Into Trouble For Not Paying Employees


If you have a business, you probably already know that you have to pay your employees for any time that they actually work. In fact, most businesses would never think of violating this very common sense idea.

But trouble often occurs accidentally, because in many cases, businesses don’t know what is actually considered “working” and what is not. Obviously, time on the job, actually doing the job, is time working. But there are other times when an employee may be considered legally working, and thus, when that employee may have a right to be paid, that isn’t that obvious.

Apple Gets Sued for Checkout Policy

One time that happens, as Apple recently found out, is when employees wait to have bags checked before they can leave the workplace.

Apple, like many employers, had a policy of checking employees’ bags or backpacks when the employee leaves work. This is commonly done in any industry when theft by an employee may be common or at least, a high possibility.

By some accounts, when employees were leaving work for Apple, they were having to wait as long as 30-45 minutes to have their bags checked by security.

The problem is that Apple was not paying these workers for this time. Apple’s position was that waiting to have a bag checked wasn’t “working,” but more importantly, that if an employee brings a purse or handbag or backpack to work, he or she does so voluntarily; the company doesn’t require the employee to bring any bag to come to work, and thus, the company should not have to pay for a wait time to check a bag that the employee voluntarily brings.

A class action lawsuit was brought against Apple for this policy, and Apple lost, mandating the payment of money to employees for bag checks.

When is a Worker Actually Working?

But the ruling doesn’t just apply to bag checks. Anything you require that employees do as a condition of employment, that takes their time or limits their freedom to come and go, must be paid. For example (and common on construction sites), time required of employees to put on safety gear before going to work, or taking it off, or check in or check out procedures, must be paid time.

Many employees get in trouble for lunch breaks. Although lunch breaks generally don’t have to be paid, they may have to be considered paid time, if the employee is not truly “free” during the lunch break—for example, if the employer is calling the employee on his or her cellphone, asking the employee to do things, or run errands on lunch breaks.

These kinds of demands on the employees, otherwise free lunch or break times, can convert what would be unpaid time into time that the employee must be paid for. The failure to make payment for these kinds of activities can end up with a Fair Labor Standards Act claim being brought against your business.

Call our Fort Lauderdale business lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today if you have an employment law or business law problem, or to help you stay out of legal trouble.




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