I have blogged many times on security check cases and whether that waiting time is compensable. It continues to be a thorny issue and pops up in many jurisdictions. In an interesting variation on this theme, the California Supreme Court will be deciding a case to determine whether employees need be paid for waiting in their cars to go through a security check point. The Court will also determine whether the driving time between a security gate and the employee parking lot is working time. The case is Huerta v. CSI Electrical Contractors, Inc., and will be decided by the Supreme Court of California.
The plaintiff alleges that he and other workers had to wait in their cars while the employer’s inspectors determined that the road could be traveled on. They then had to wait in their cars to have badges swiped by the employer’s representatives. After getting through security, the plaintiff alleges the workers drove to the parking lots, but claims there were many “job rules” and restrictions which, if not followed, carried disciplinary consequences, including being fired. The plaintiff claims these facts show that the employer “controlled” this entire scenario, thereby making all of the time working time.
The plaintiffs’ theory is simple. They allege because they were subject to and under the employer’s control, that fact converted all the travel time and waiting time into compensable time. The employer countered by asserting that no “work” was required of the employees and all they had to do was wait in their cars and then show their badge for it to be scanned. The employer further contends that the travel time is an extension of the normal home-to-work commuting time, which is always non-compensable. It is significant that the employees are using their own cars, as opposed to employer-provided transportation, which has been ruled to then be compensable time. Lastly, the defense is also that these rules do not impose a burden on the employees as to show employer “control,” but are unique to this property.
This decision should go to the employer. There is no work being required of these employees and the alleged control they are under is more a factor of the conditions relating to the work site, than the employer controlling the time of the people. I believe this will be viewed as an extension of the workers’ home-to-work commute and non-compensable time.