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Court dismisses employee suits challenging employer bag inspections

Q&A with Nathan Whatley

published in The Oklahoman | December 8, 2017

In an effort to deter employee theft – whether of unpaid merchandise at a retail store or smaller items from an office – many employers have implemented bag check policies and procedures. In a business Q&A with The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Nathan Whatley discussed the legality of such practices and how disputes over these types of screenings have played out in court.

According to Whatley, employers generally have the right to require employees to submit to bag checks for security screenings as a condition of their employment. So while the legality of such searches is typically not in dispute, there has been a rise in the number of lawsuits filed in which the affected employees claim they should be compensated for the time spent waiting to have their bags checked before leaving work.

“For the most part, the courts have rejected the plaintiff’s theories in these cases,” said Whatley. “In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, in which the court found that the time spent by the employees going through bag checks didn’t have to be compensated because it was not integral or indispensable to the principal activities of their work.”

He added that numerous courts have concurred, ruling that the time spent waiting for bag checks was so small as to be de minimis and, therefore, not compensable.