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Apple workers file lawsuit for lost wages due to bag searches

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Former employees at Apple(s aapl) stores in New York and Los Angeles have filed a class action suit, claiming the iPhone maker required them to stand in line for up to 30 minutes every shift and wait for a manager to search their bags.

According to a complaint filed in San Francisco federal court, the searches result in Apple workers being deprived of around $1,500 a year in unpaid wages:

Employees .. are required to wait in line and be searched for .. merchandise taken without permission and/or other contraband. […] A large number of Specialists and Managers leave for lunch at the same time and/or end their shift at the same time. This creates lengthy lines and backups .

The lawsuit was filed by Amanda Frlekin who worked at Apple’s Century City store in Los Angeles and Dean Pelle who was employed at its Soho location in New York. Both worked as “Specialists” until this spring, and are now seeking to sue on behalf of thousands of Apple workers across the country.

The former employees claim that Apple’s “personal package and bag search” policy results in staff being forced to stand around for 5 to 15 minutes every time they clock out for a meal break or leave work at the end of their shift.

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, claims Apple is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws in New York and California.

Apple, which is facing a new controversy over labor standards in China, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Here’s a copy of the complaint:

Apple Employee Class Action

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38 Responses to “Apple workers file lawsuit for lost wages due to bag searches”

  1. I hope that the employees realize that this is also a common situation in the factories where Apple products are produced in China. The common practice of mandatory unpaid meetings at those factories is detailed in the most recent China Labor Watch.

  2. Jeff Hupert

    Is this “sexy” only because it involves Apple? Probably

    This is not a new procedure in the retail sales area or a new question for the Courts. Theft by employees has long been an immense problem for retailers (even here in the midwest) (and a pain in the neck to the vast majority of employees who are honest). I would think it would be an even bigger problem for Apple, with a lot of small valuable items kept in back areas accessable to employees.

    Despite what some may think, the law iin this area is not clear; The FLSA has been interpreted in different cointexts about only having to pay employees for time when they are “working”.

    I do hope the law is clarified. Just from my point of view; if it regularly takes 5 minutes or less, I’ m not impressed by the extra burden on the employees. If it takes more on a regular basis,it’s a problem. The Complaint was nicely (and understandably) vague on that one.

    The big recent case out of the 9th Circuit on this very issue is Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc,, which also discusses class actions in this context, and which agrees with the employees.. Older cases go in both directions.

  3. fredhstein

    I’m confused. Is is 30 minutes or 5 to 10 minutes?
    At 30 minutes, it cost the employees about $2250 / yr
    at 10, it’s < $800
    at 5 it's < $400

    If it's at the high end, Apple needs to pay-up. And if so, how did this escalate without Apple addressing it in the first place?

  4. OK…I work in a private prison, where the same thing occurs. We have to have our IDs scanned, then wait in line to be patted down, then have to wait for two metal doors to be opened(if the person in master control is paying attention); then we get to clock in…If they get to sue….How is this different?

  5. Baal Sach

    got same problem at alot of places, car dealers & real estate especially. good luck with that, and all the moneythey’ll throw at you…

    still waiting on the zombia apokolypse

  6. sir loin

    got same problem at alot of places, car dealers & real estate especially. good luck with that, and all the moneythey’ll throw at you…

    still waiting on the zombia apokolypse

  7. Mike S

    Employees should absolutely be paid for time they’re required to be there.

    And I would never work for a company that assumes I’m a criminal until I prove otherwise, but that’s just me.

  8. miraclemage999

    I think Apple needs to make it a point that ALL managers are available at the time the shift ends. The manager’s shifts should overlap, and NONE OF THEM should be able to go on break at this time. If they feel they must check bags before the employees can leave, they need to facilitate that happening as easily as possible. I’d be mad – and feel like they owed me a half hour’s pay! – if I had to wait that long to leave work. Apple needs to take responsibility for this, if they feel they must keep this practice.

  9. I worked in a different retail store where the same thing happened. You had to be checked going out – and they told you when to clock out but were too “busy” to check your bag to leave. As far as not taking anything in – that’s ridiculous! Lunch? Keys? Wallet? C’mon ppl!!! But if they win – other retail stores will be hit with the same lawsuit. As they should be. Perhaps they should relocate the computer so you can clock in/out when you enter the line or after you’re checked to leave.

  10. Rich Remer

    Doesn’t matter what the employees knew when got hired, this is a clear violation of labor laws. You can’t sign away your labor rights. It’s just not possible.

  11. This is a problem in liberal areas, because liberals obviously have no problem taking what isn’t theirs. Just look at how far our liberal government leaders have their hands stuffed in the working population’s pockets.

  12. Mike Jones

    It would be interesting to see what kind of bag these employees were bringing to work everday. I worked in retail while in high school and college summers and I never brought a bag to work.

    On a side note, I have football season tickets and the NFL has a new bag policy. Only clear bags are allowed into games and woman can bring a small clutch bag (not a big purse). The size of the bag is limited as well.

    • We’re not allowed to wear our work clothes off the clock. Plus you might need to bring a bag lunch, or perhaps you’re coming directly off the bus from school as I was. You really need to bring a bag if you work for Apple.

      As an aside, when people complain about the TSA I don’t hear people say, “Oh well they agreed to fly so they agreed to be strip searched.”

    • Shirley Márquez Dúlcey

      You probably drove to work. One of the principals in the lawsuit works in a store in Manhattan, where most workers walk or take public transit, and thus don’t have the option of leaving their belongings in their cars. If you need to have ANYTHING with you between the time you leave home and the time you return home – and for an urban dweller that time is likely to include dining, shopping, working out, and nightlife – you have to carry it into work with you.

      The people are suing are correct. If the store is requiring them to be there, they should be paid for those hours. Clocking out should happen after the mandatory inspection, not before.

  13. yellowjackt65

    The employees knew what they were getting into when they were hired. They had to have reviewed and then signed an agreement stating this was policy and that they understood it. If they have a problem with their employer then they should find another job not sue them (unless of course the employer is somehow violating their rights or otherwise violating the law).

    • ColinATL

      Um, that’s what they’re arguing, that Apple is violating the law by making them work (stand around waiting) and not compensating them for it. You may argue that it’s not a violation of the law, but that’s what the court case would be about. Personally, this seems like a dumb lawsuit, but it’s clearly got some folks worked up about it…

    • That’s the point — it violates labor law. If you are required by your employer to be there, federal law says you’re on the clock. They can make you wait for 6 hours if they want, but they have to pay you for those 6 hours.

  14. Zj Sky

    Compared to the conditions in China this does not seem like a bad deal – that said, if they are forcing their employees to stay an extra half hour on premises, they should compensate them for that time.

  15. As a customer, I have never been asked to open a bag by Apple staff but the employees dont get that luxury?

    Apple, should probably get a little more creative at curbing theft.

  16. I worked in a UK store and we had this problem. It would take ages (never 30 minutes) for a manager to come and ‘check you out’. This was certainly frustrating as you’d often miss a train or bus, but I’m not sure it’s worth suing over.

    • anonymous coward

      As an individual it’s not, over a year @20 minutes a day you’ve only lost about 85 hours of your time.. At $9 (about £6) an hour that’s $765 (£510) a year in unpaid wages. Over a long enough time period/enough people it turns into a decent chunk of money rather quickly.

  17. For most of you not in the know Apple does not allow us to wear Apple shirts outside of store so where does one carry work clothes….especially in NYC?

  18. Screening hires carefully would work better. I once worked in security at a major art museum. One of the staff remarked that it was amazing that nothing was ever stolen from the locker room.

    The why was obvious. Given the value of the art, the museum didn’t hire anyone who had the slightest blemish on their record. Character counts.

  19. This seems to be a uniquely non-Midwestern thing. This does not happen in the middle of the US: we clock out, we go. No bag searches, no theft. Trust as a better path to compliance?

  20. keninca

    They should install a locker room in each store where employees must keep their personal bags, and then have cameras record all ingress and egress. When their accounting reveals theft, they can review their recordings to see if anyone brought products into the locker room.

    Or they can get better at hiring employees who won’t steal from them. And pay them more.