- A federal district court granted summary judgment to Converse in a class-action mandatory bag-check suit last week. The lead plaintiff failed to show that the security screenings were onerous, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held (Chavez v. Converse, Inc., No. 5:15-cv-03746 (Oct. 11, 2017)), dismissing the claims.
- The employees claimed they should have been paid for their time spent waiting for the required bag inspections each time they left the premises, in accordance with California labor law. Converse argued that the off-the-clock time required for the inspections was de minimis and, therefore, not compensable.
- Converse provided evidence showing that the bag inspections lasted lasted less than 10 seconds, on average. The plaintiffs, however, had claimed that they waited more than two minutes in some cases.
De minimis time is not compensable. It essentially builds in protections for employers against the "split-second absurdities" that can arise in the workplace, according to Judge Nathanael Cousin.
Many of the questions within this case revolved around whether the de minimis doctrine, which comes from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, applies to state law at all. The California Supreme Court is set to decide that question but, until it does, the court here said it was bound by 9th Circuit precedent, which, for now, allows de minimis to be applied to California law.
Eric Chavez, the lead plaintiff, claimed that the time taken up by the bag checks would survive the de minimis defense. But the court disagreed, finding that (1) the time taken up by inspection did not typically pass two minutes; (2) it could be more administratively difficult if employees had to clock out after the inspections; (3) the aggregate time of all times of inspection upon leaving the store for breaks and otherwise did not exceed 10 minutes; and (4) evidence seemed to show that employees did not have to wait for inspections with “any regularity.”
In California, a number of mandatory bag inspection cases have come before the courts in recent years. Employees at Apple, Nike and Converse had all been granted class action in the respective suits. But the courts have often sided with employers. Apple won their case in a similar suit in 2015, and Nike recently prevailed in their case, as well.