Apple retail employees have won a class-action lawsuit against their employer.
A three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Apple responsible to pay employees for the uncompensated time they had to wait for security screening “bag checks” before leaving their workplace.
The legal battle began in 2013 when a number of retail employees working for tech giant Apple sued the company, arguing that Apple’s policy of required security searches off the clock constituted wage theft. Employees who brought anything more than a wallet to work, including personal bags, lunch sacks, or even their own Apple devices, were required to wait, uncompensated, for a manager to be available to search their belongings before being allowed to go to lunch or leave for home. According to the lawsuit, waits averaged between 10 and 30 minutes and up to 45, as most stores had only a single person on staff who could conduct searches, and that person was required to prioritize customer service over employee needs.
The 2013 lawsuit was dismissed by San Francisco U.S. District Judge William Alsup, on the basis that employees could come and go empty-handed without security checks. The complainants refiled in 2015, this time as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all U.S. Apple retail employees.
On September 2, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Alsup’s ruling, finding that Apple is responsible to pay for the time employees are required to wait for security screenings. It was unreasonable, the ruling said, for an employee to be coerced to leave ordinary day-to-day personal items such as purses, lunches, and phones at home or in a vehicle while at work without reasonable cause.
The new decision has precedence. A Supreme Court ruling in California just a few years ago determined that staff time spent in security screenings was compensable, after reports spread that Amazon warehouse workers were being forced to wait hours in screening lines unpaid after every shift.
According to the panel’s decision, Apple owes as much as $60 million in unpaid back pay to its more than 12,000 retail employees in California over this issue.
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