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Unsealed E-mails to Apple CEO Allege Off-the-Clock Work through Bag Checks

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Los Angeles, CAAs successor to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, Tim Cook may be the face presented to the world when new products such as the Apple watch are released. But he’s also an employer too, and a number of employees have taken Cook and Apple Inc. to task over unpaid wages claims and off the clock work.

The latter, according to an e-mail tied to a donning and doffing lawsuit that has recently become unsealed, is not based on performing work off the clock per se, but rather a delay in leaving the premises following the end of the workday for bag checks. The issue has also been at play in various lawsuits against Amazon, the distribution juggernaut that regularly holds up the works by performing bag checks, leaving employees waiting in line and fuming.

And all, it is alleged, on their own time.

According to CNN Money (6/11/15), the California unpaid wages lawsuit was filed against Apple Inc. in 2013 and includes an e-mail sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook on April 2, 2012 by an individual identified as an Apple retail specialist. The text of the e-mail reveals that the sender interprets the bag check policies as “both insulting and demeaning to Apple employees.

“These procedures imply that Apple doesn't trust or respect their employees,” the author of the email wrote.
“Managers are required to treat ‘valued’ employees as criminals.”

The bag check procedure is alleged to occur at the end of the day after the employees’ respective shifts come to an end. Employees are required, before leaving the store, to present registration cards containing the serial numbers of personal iPhones and other personal Apple devices owned by the employee. A bag check is also performed often, it is alleged, in front of customers.

The e-mail trail shows that Cook forwarded the e-mail to Apple executives in charge of Human Resources (HR), asking if the circumstances alleged by the Apple retrial specialist were true.

The contents of Cook’s reply to the employee, or the HR department’s reply to Cook, are not known: those documents remain sealed.

A similar allegation was made by an employee at the Xidan Joy City Apple Store in Beijing, who suggested to Cook in an e-mail sent on January 28, 2013 that “Apple treats employees like animals.” Bag checks are performed there, as well.

In the California unpaid wages lawsuit, two plaintiffs allege they were made to wait after clocking out for the day, while the bag checks were performed. Some days, according to the lawsuit, the wait was longer than five or 10 minutes. Over the course of the year, that wait translated to $1,500 in unpaid wages for one plaintiff.

A donning and doffing lawsuit is increasingly becoming an option for plaintiffs who are required to perform work off the clock, or don and doff mandated clothing and equipment without compensation. Plaintiffs in such litigation hold that any processes mandated by an employer for the purposes of performing a job should be paid time.

In similar fashion, requiring workers to undergo a bag check or other searches for security reasons should be paid time, according to numerous plaintiffs and their unpaid wages attorney.


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