Friday, February 14, 2020

Unpaid Apple Store Bag Checks Ruled Illegal

Mikey Campbell (L.A. Times, Hacker News, Reddit):

The California Supreme Court in a decision delivered on Thursday found Apple broke state law by not paying retail workers for the time they spent participating in mandatory bag and device searches, leaving the company liable for millions in unpaid wages.

In a unanimous ruling (PDF link), the court holds employees were and are in Apple’s control during mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, devices and other items. As such, Apple is required to compensate its employees for time spent on the anti-theft program, which in this case allegedly amounted to up to 20 minutes worth hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

Juli Clover:

Apple requires all personal packages, bags, and Apple devices that belong to retail employees to be checked by a manager or security before an employee is allowed to leave the store for any reason, including breaks, lunch, and the end of shifts.

Employees are also required to clock out before submitting to an exit search, and have estimated that the time spent waiting and undergoing searches ranges from five to 20 minutes. On busy days, some employees have waited for up to 45 minutes waiting for a bag check.

Apple has argued that allowing employees to bring bags and devices to work is a convenience and has positioned the searches as a “benefit” because employees could prevent searches by not bringing personal items or could be banned from bringing personal items all together. The California Supreme Court says that such a ban would be “draconian” and that Apple’s arguments that employee iPhones are a convenience are “at odds” with how the iPhone is described in marketing materials.

Update (2020-02-18): John Gruber:

This whole thing is an embarrassment for the richest company in the world. I can see how it happened in the first place, but once it got to court, Apple should have recognized that the policy was flatly wrong and settled it by fully paying wages for time spent in these checks to retail employees worldwide.


Second, taking this lawsuit to the state supreme court left Apple’s lawyers arguing that employees don’t need to take their Apple devices to work. Who doesn’t take their phone to work? I literally don’t know anyone who leaves the house for anything without their phone.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Really a stain on the company. And they took it to the California supreme court? WAT?

Still can’t get over how Cook signed off on the gaslighting argument that getting frisked at work is a “benefit” to employees, and if they didn’t want that “benefit”, they could leave their iPhones at home.

Update (2020-09-07): Tim Hardwick:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday said Apple must pay over 12,000 retail workers in California for the time spent waiting for compulsory bag searches at the end of their shifts (via Reuters).

The ruling is here. See also: Hacker News.

Update (2021-08-21): See also: Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk (via Simone Manganelli).

Update (2022-08-29): Juli Clover:

Apple will pay $30.5 million to settle a long-running lawsuit over employee bag checks, reports Bloomberg Law. Apple initially agreed to the sum in November 2021, and now a judge has given final approval to the settlement amount.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

What's weird is Apple already won a similar case, didn't they? New York perhaps. I agree with this ruling, I think Apple is being unnecessarily capricious, they literally only had to adjust where the timeclock is in regards to the ridiculous search process.

Whoa! Wait a minute, yes this in the same case and was filed by California and New York Employees in a class action and yes, it was originally won at trial by Apple. I like Judge Alsup generally, but his original ruling was completely wrong. Glad the appeal worked out!

I’m glad these employees won this appeal. Bringing a cell phone or purse to work is not a luxury. Apple has every right to do security screenings, but if these checks could take 20-40 minutes it seems very wrong to keep them off the clock.

I’m guessing that if Apple actually had to factor in employee time wasted on these checks as a business cost, instead of pushing the cost to its workers, this would have been fixed a long time ago.

Yep, if Apple had shouldered the burden of paying employees for their time…I'm sure the policy would have been streamlined to get them out the door faster. I am not a big fan of wasting money on frivolous perks, but a company as rich as Apple should always default to compensating employee's time. Clearly taking a phone or bag to work is hardly a perk, nor is it a waste of money to compensate employees for employer mandated time on site. Geeze.

The fact that Apple was getting away with not paying employees for time on premises for a mandatory work function, that they were shaving pay off for this is mindblowing to me.

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