13 Comments

Summary:

Should Apple Store employees be paid when they wait in line for managers to search their bags and personal devices? The company recently lost a ruling to throw out class action lawsuits.

apple-scales

A federal judge refused to dismiss lawsuits brought by Apple store employees who are seeking wages for the time they spent waiting for managers to perform anti-theft checks of their bags and Apple devices.

In a Friday ruling that offers a rare window into the secretive company’s H.R. practices, U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected Apple’s request to throw out the lawsuit and said a trial would be helpful to learn more about the nature of the employee searches.

The ruling comes in response to a series of class actions lawsuits filed last year in which Apple retail employees complained they were not paid for the 10-15 minutes they spent in the security procedures, including waiting in line, whenever they clocked out for lunch or at the end of a shift.

The ruling reveals that Apple managers explained the searches to staffs in so-called “Daily Download” meetings, and that two types of searches take place at approximately 250 Apple stores in 44 states: 1) bag searches; 2) “personal technology checks” in which managers compare the serial numbers of employees’ Apple devices to a recorded list.

Apple, which did not immediately reply to a request for comment, has claimed in court filings that its store employees should not be paid for the searches because they are optional. The company says that its approximately 26,000 retail staff are not required to bring bags to work, and that they can avoid the technology checks if they don’t use iPhones or other Apple devices.

Judge Alsup, however, writes that avoiding the searches is not as simple as all that:

Apple employees may need to bring a bag to work for reasons they cannot control, such as the need for medication, feminine hygiene products, or disability accommodations.

Alsup also noted that the specific search practices appeared to vary from store to store, and that going forward with a trial would serve to produce a more complete record in the event the case ends up before an appeals court.

Finally, the judge agreed to stay part of the proceedings pending a Supreme Court case about unpaid searches of employees who work in Amazon warehouses. That case, set for 2015, is expected to provide more guidance about a 1947 federal labor law that defines what constitutes “work” activities.

Alsup added that, whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court case, the case can likely go forward under California law. It will be interesting to see whether Apple digs in, or if it instead uses some of its approximately $159 billion cash hoard to settle the case.

This story was updated, per Jh in the comments below, to clarify the nature of “Daily Download” meetings.

Here’s the ruling with some of the relevant bits underlined:

Apple Bag Check Ruling

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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13 Comments

  1. Interesting from a legal precedence perspective. Apple and Amazon can easily pay or fight in the courts forever. Are the cases, above, based on other precedences or will they set new ones with broad implications.

    1. Jeff John Roberts fredhstein Tuesday, June 3, 2014

      That’s a good point, fredhstein. Apple certainly has the deep pockets to fight this forever.

      As for the outcome, it sounds like the law turns on what counts as a work duty and what does not. The California courts appear sympathetic to the employees but, given the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on class actions, I suspect they’ll side with Amazon (the employer in the case is actually a staffing service used by Amazon).

  2. Granville Kennedy Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Apple Stores are not franchise operations, I can’t see how any such search policy could ever be considered optional. Store managers are probably responsible for any employee thefts of hardware or software in some way. Apple could easily afford to pay for whatever time and inconveinece the retail employees endure due to these searches. They have the most profitable retail operations in the world, when measured by square foot of retail space. Just squeezing the labor force in the interests of increased returns for the stockholders, nothing to see here, keeping moving…

    1. Ouch, pretty cynical view there, Granville Kennedy. Alas, I suspect you’re right..

    2. How about the greater good viewpoint. If security is needed, then it’s part of the job. If the employer pays for the time it takes, then the employer has an incentive to make it efficient. True for employers who aren’t as profitable as Apple.

  3. I can absolutely assure you that bag checks and personal technology checks do not occur at every store. Furthermore, “Daily Downloads” are pre-shift rah-rah meetings, not departure/clock-out procedures.

    1. Jeff John Roberts Jh Tuesday, June 3, 2014

      Thanks for sharing Jh. I’ve corrected the story to clarify the meaning of “Daily Downloads,” and added a note pointing to your comment.

    2. That is not the complete truth Jh…..there were closing downloads that involved upwards of 20-30 employees, regularly.

  4. I totally agree with Granville Kennedy. I pay big bucks for premium Apple products and would feel better if they were taking care of their employees. All an employee has to sell is their time. Apple is stealing it. Just pay them and get over it. It could not possibly change the bottom line enough to be noticed. Happy employees make happy customers.

    1. I filed the lawsuit in March of 2013, after being terminated by Apple for question a customer about a product seen being put into his bag.I asked for a receipt, the customer got unruly, cursed me out, all sort of derrogatory language.I was standing 2 ft away from security who told me he could do nothing until management said so.The manager was less than 10 ft away and did nothing for a duration that lasted at least 10 mins! I proceeded to exit the customer from store.The customer wrote an inflammatory letter to corporate stating many inconsistencies and alterations of the truth, and it had an effect! Even though I had eyewitnesses…i.e security guard (off-duty Police officer) who told management I did what needed to be done…get customer out of store by non physical means.I had surveillance cameras to prove my claims,the security guard and manager, but I was let go because of P.R. reasonings. That is the principle connection to filing this class-action which started from my W.14th St. Apple Store. If I’m gonna be policed more than the customers ,whom are almost cajoled into theft, imagine dealing with a retail establishment that allows customers to check themselves out using an Iphones ,but you are trusted less! It is a matter of principle, but the fact remains, if I’m being held up for any amount of time….compensate me!

  5. Granville Alley Thursday, June 5, 2014

    If there were no Employee Theft there would be no searches. If people choose to bring bags that is in fact their choice not the Apple’s. As to serial number checking on Apple Devices, Apple should be able to automate that process fairly easily and such an application would probably offer commercial appeal as well.

    If I thought any employees, anywhere would actually receive any benefit from such a lawsuit and it were not just another in the never ending quest by the Class Action Leaches that make up that portion of the Plaintiff’s Bar, I might have more sympathy. But knowing that any settlement is likely to include millions of dollars for the lawyers and nothing and/or next to nothing for the employees, I find the whole thing to be disgusting.

  6. Granville, I agree, we will not be getting rich from this….more like get what we’re owed! Everyone knows my lawyers make out with the loot , but principle is principle! I worked for Apple in 3 different cities in 3 different states. What’s really disgusting is Apple’s practices and lack of accountability in the manner in which they defend themselves! “We don’t require employees to bring bags to work therefor they voluntarily agree to bag checks”….true.They also don’t allow us to leave shirts on premise in lockers and we can’t be seen in civilian life wearing an Apple shirt, so how do we commute in a city like NYC with uniform, but no bag?Ludicrous! Let’s remember the Class Action is not about whether we think bag checks are ethical, it’s about the Federal law, compensate us! In Apple’s own credo we were dubbed the “Soul” of the retail face of the company! Hogwash! LOL

  7. DNP I agree with your statement and Apple needs to man up!