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Apple’s Off-the Clock Bag Search Results In $30 million Settlement

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Apple employees in 2013 filed a lawsuit arguing they should be paid for off-the-clock bag searches and that Apple was violating the California labor law by doing so – resulting in a $30 million settlement.

Santa Clara, CAApple workers were subjected to off-the-clock security bag searches from July 2009 until August 2015. It’s hard to imagine working six years for an employer that doesn’t trust its employees. According to the California wage and hour lawsuit, Apple said bag checks were necessary to ensure workers weren't leaving with stolen electronic devices or trade secrets and if you didn’t like it, don’t bring bags or iPhones (!) to work. Employees said the mandatory bag checks were embarrassing and demeaning.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of Apple employees, goes back to 2013. By 2015 it had morphed into a class action. Those employees asserted that they should be compensated for the bag search time because they were still under Apple’s control. Apple argued its case successfully in U.S. District Court in 2015 but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February 2020 that Apple had violated the California labor law by failing to pay its employees for that five- to twenty-minute bag search before clocking out. The judges ruled that that Apple workers were "clearly under Apple's control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches."

iPhones at Work

The court dismissed Apple's argument that bringing a bag to work was an employee convenience, but iPhones? Ironically, Apple said employees didn't necessarily need to bring their iPhones to work. Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc. since 2011, said in 2017 that the iPhone was "so integrated and integral to our lives, you wouldn't think about leaving home without it." Did Cook not get the memo about this $30 million complaint?

Apple’s $29.9M Settlement

Apple’s legal website has provided claimants (and the public) access to legal documents and it has detailed the terms of settlement. Apple is thorough: included is the original class action complaint, notices of the settlement to different types of class members and information on how to get in contact with the settlement administrator. Lawyers for the employees have urged them to accept the offer, reported Apple Insider. "This is a significant, non-reversionary settlement reached after nearly eight years of hard-fought litigation," wrote one plaintiff attorney.

According to Bloomberg News, the lawsuit covers 14,683 workers in 52 Apple Stores in California who were subjected to bag checks from July 25th, 2009 until August 10th, 2015. They'll each get $1,286 from the settlement amount. The Final Approval Hearing for the settlement will take place on July 7, 2022. The case is Frlekin v. Apple, 13-cv-03451, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

California Labor Code

The Supreme Court, Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice, held that: [1] time employees spent on employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit search was employer- controlled activity, and therefore it was compensable as “hours worked” within meaning of control clause of minimum wage order, and [2] decision that employer's mandatory exit search was compensable as “hours worked” within meaning of control clause of minimum wage order could not be limited to prospective application.

Labor and Employment Working Time:  An employee who is subject to the control of an employer does not have to be working during that time to be compensated under the wage order requiring employers to pay their employees a minimum wage for all “hours worked.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11070. Time employees spent on employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, or personal employer-based technology devices, such as smart-phones, voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience was employer-controlled activity, and therefore it was compensable as “hours worked” within meaning of control clause of minimum wage order; although employer could have totally prohibited its employees from bringing any bags or personal employer-based devices into its stores altogether, exit searches were imposed mainly for employer’s benefit by serving to detect and deter theft, it compelled its employees to perform specific and supervised tasks while awaiting and during on-site search, and searches were enforceable by disciplinary action. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11070(2)(G).


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