Apple must pay shop staff for time spent undergoing bag checks

Appeals court ruling reverses a decision from US District Judge William Alsup in favour of Apple,

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A US Appeals Court in California has ruled that Apple Store staff should be paid for time spent waiting to undergo the company’s bag checks, in the the latest turn in a class action Apple has been battling for seven years, fending off retail workers that asked to be paid for up to 45 minutes spent at the end of their shift waiting to be searched.

Workers managed to take it all the way to the California Supreme Court in February this year, which looked at the question of whether they should in principle be compensated for hanging around, unpaid, under state law, the California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage order.

The order states that staff must be paid for “hours worked” under an employer’s “control”. The Apple employees were required to clock out before submitting to the exit search.

The appeals court ruling reverses a decision from US District Judge William Alsup in favour of Apple, which was made on the basis that workers weren’t under Apple’s control during searches and had “chosen” to bring bags to work and therefore subjected themselves to Apple’s search policy.

Yesterday’s unanimous 12-page opinion, written by Judge Consuelo B Marshall on behalf of the panel, said the district court had “erred” and reversed the finding, aligning itself with the Supreme Court decision.

The wage-and-hour class action was brought by thousands of California-based Apple worker in a suit certified in 2015 but first brought in 2013. The filing noted that:

“some employees reported waiting up to forty-five minutes to undergo an exit search. Employees receive no compensation for the time spent waiting for and undergoing exit searches, because they must clock out before undergoing a search pursuant to the Policy.”

The panel said Apple’s contentions that some class members “did not bring bags or devices to work”, “were never required to participate in checks”, or “worked in stores with remote break rooms where they stored their belongings” were beside the point as they only had to do with individuals seeking legal action, not to “class-wide” relief.

The opinion quoted Apple’s “Employee Package and Bag Searches” policy, which among other things asked that employees “Do not leave the store prior to having your personal package or back [sic] searched by a member of management or the security team (where applicable).”

The original complaint had argued that Apple’s policy was “demeaning” and “embarrassing” and made Apple staffers feel like they were being treated as “criminals”.

Full Ruling

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