Apple to face damages trials on employee bag check policy

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 3
A federal judge on Wednesday said he is prepared to rule in favor of a class of 12,400 Apple retail employees who allege the tech giant unjustly enforced bag screening policies without pay, setting up what could be a series of damages trials.

Apple Retail


U.S. District Judge William Alsup in a hearing on Monday said he plans to grant summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, but will allow Apple to dispute individual claims on a case-by-case basis, reports Reuters.

The case dates back to 2013, when employees sued Apple over anti-theft measures including "demeaning" bag checks that were instituted in 2009. Plaintiffs in the class action argued they should have been compensated for time spent complying with Apple's screening protocols, which were designed to dissuade theft of company property.

According to court documents, the "Employee Package and Bag Searches" rule called for managers to search an employee's bags and personal devices (like iPhones) after clocking out at the end of the workday and, in some cases, lunch breaks. Plaintiffs claimed that routine wait times during these security checks deprived them of wages amounting to more than $1,400 per year.

Alsup dismissed the originating case in 2014, but allowed a class action to move forward under California law. That suit was also dismissed in 2015, with the jurist saying employees could have effectively bypassed Apple's searches by not bringing a bag to work.

Alsup's ruling was reversed when the California Supreme Court last year determined that employees were and are in Apple's control during mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, devices and other items. State law requires companies to compensate employees for time spent on anti-theft programs. A later decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived the class action as it stands.

On Wednesday, Alsup said he plans to hold a series of "mini-trials" on damages, during which Apple lawyers can argue against individual member claims. Specifically, some class members might not have waited long enough to reach a threshold for compensation. Apple lawyers pushed for employees to fill out detailed forms regarding time spent in security checks and when those checks were carried out, but that idea was shot down.

"I'm not going to require the claimants to figure out every day they stood in line and how long they stood in line; if they gave dates, they would not be telling the truth," Alsup said. "Apple is just out of luck on that point."

Instead, employees will estimate time spent on bag screening exercises.

Court documents show Apple could be responsible for some $60 million in damages, the report said.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 461member
    Wage theft in the US is costing employees billions of dollars every year.  It may even be the biggest total theft loss that Americans suffer.

    It's absolutely unacceptable that any company refuses to pay employees for time that they are forced to spend on the employer's premises.

    Any company doing this should have to pay not only the stolen wages but significant punitive damages, and there should be prison time for executives who put policies in place that result in wage theft.
    chadbagbageljoeyNumNutsSkepticalaknabichemengin1
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,665member
    I don’t have a problem with the bag search, but if the the staff are still at work then the they  definitely should’ve been paid for their time. And I think it would be good PR to pay up regardless of whether or not the employee had missed the claim deadline. 
    edited March 4 muthuk_vanalingamSkeptical
  • Reply 3 of 13
    I agree it’s unacceptable. I happened to work there for both periods before and after 2009 at large flagship locations. What a different that policy made. It wasn’t just once a day. It was every time you left the building. If you smoked during a 15 you would have to wait in line potentially to get out. Then lunch, then again for the other 15 and then when you left for the day. After big all hands meetings it would take even as long as half an hour sometimes to get out.

    It wasn’t the bags that made a difference it was that you registered all your Apple products and they would check the serial numbers of them all every time you left, for everyone so the security guy had his spreadsheet and would lookup every single device you were leaving with. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like now with AirPods, Apple watches, iPhones, let alone the employees that liked to bring an iPad or work laptop to do other work during breaks.

    darkvader said:
    Wage theft in the US is costing employees billions of dollars every year.  It may even be the biggest total theft loss that Americans suffer.

    It's absolutely unacceptable that any company refuses to pay employees for time that they are forced to spend on the employer's premises.

    Any company doing this should have to pay not only the stolen wages but significant punitive damages, and there should be prison time for executives who put policies in place that result in wage theft.

    NumNutsgatorguy
  • Reply 4 of 13
    roakeroake Posts: 735member
    This is a bit of a complicated issue, but I believe I side with the workers here.  It’s falls into a gray area in my opinion because Apple did NOT hold up and search employees unless they brought personal bags or gear to work with them; a surprising large percentage bring backpacks and the like.  As such, one argument would be, “Don’t bring bags and you can leave right away.”  But another argument could be, “Other businesses allow personal bag and do not search people on the way out.”  But some do.  I remember seeing employees at Sears going to the security door and letting them search their bags as they left.  I have no idea whether they were still on the clock or not.  The “search” was extremely cursory, taking only a couple seconds.

    If I were an Apple employee, I likely would just opt not to bring any sort of bag and it would be a non-issue.  I’m not sure what having this option means legally for Apple, though.  Maybe someone savvy in Law could help me understand it.  Or perhaps it’s unclear, since the case remains tied up in court.
  • Reply 5 of 13
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,285member
    This is just bad on Apple’s part. 

    If Apple doesn’t trust their employees, how can the employees or anyone trust Apple?

    It seems the cost of doing the checks is greater than any minimal amount of theft they might happen. 
  • Reply 6 of 13
    roake said:
    This is a bit of a complicated issue, but I believe I side with the workers here.  It’s falls into a gray area in my opinion because Apple did NOT hold up and search employees unless they brought personal bags or gear to work with them; a surprising large percentage bring backpacks and the like.  As such, one argument would be, “Don’t bring bags and you can leave right away.”  But another argument could be, “Other businesses allow personal bag and do not search people on the way out.”  But some do.  I remember seeing employees at Sears going to the security door and letting them search their bags as they left.  I have no idea whether they were still on the clock or not.  The “search” was extremely cursory, taking only a couple seconds.

    If I were an Apple employee, I likely would just opt not to bring any sort of bag and it would be a non-issue.  I’m not sure what having this option means legally for Apple, though.  Maybe someone savvy in Law could help me understand it.  Or perhaps it’s unclear, since the case remains tied up in court.
    Did you read the post above yours? It wasn’t just bags. They apparently checked the serial number of your iPhone or any other device you brought every time you left on a a break, lunch, end of day, etc. Totally unacceptable. 
  • Reply 7 of 13
    roake said:
    This is a bit of a complicated issue, but I believe I side with the workers here.  It’s falls into a gray area in my opinion because Apple did NOT hold up and search employees unless they brought personal bags or gear to work with them; a surprising large percentage bring backpacks and the like.  As such, one argument would be, “Don’t bring bags and you can leave right away.”  But another argument could be, “Other businesses allow personal bag and do not search people on the way out.”  But some do.  I remember seeing employees at Sears going to the security door and letting them search their bags as they left.  I have no idea whether they were still on the clock or not.  The “search” was extremely cursory, taking only a couple seconds.

    If I were an Apple employee, I likely would just opt not to bring any sort of bag and it would be a non-issue.  I’m not sure what having this option means legally for Apple, though.  Maybe someone savvy in Law could help me understand it.  Or perhaps it’s unclear, since the case remains tied up in court.
    Did you read the post above yours? It wasn’t just bags. They apparently checked the serial number of your iPhone or any other device you brought every time you left on a a break, lunch, end of day, etc. Totally unacceptable. 
    Just because someone one the internet said that that's how Apple operated their stores and those how long it took does not make it true.  I don't doubt that there were individual instances as stupid as was described, but I find it impossible to believe that that was a regular occurrence.  That's like saying that because TSA reps make you throw away your drinks and pocket knives when you go through an airport screening, then there are people who have lost hundreds of pocket knives.  Of course not. Employees aren't idiots; they wouldn't want to waste time every day off the clock. I'm sure that the vast majority, left their laptops, etc. home or in the locker and breezed in and out each day.

    This is a complicated case.  Apple would have been completely within their rights if they didn't allow employees to bring any devices into the building, period.  In that case, the check out would have been trivial.  Instead they had a looser policy and let them bring devices with the provision that leaving would be a bit of an inconvenience.  It's interesting that the company is penalized giving employees that option.

    I like this quote from the article: "Plaintiffs claimed that routine wait times during these security checks deprived them of wages amounting to more than $1,400 per year."

    Sounds about right to me, go ahead and pay the plaintiffs $1,400.  That works out to a little more than a dollar for each of the 12,400 members of the class.  I'd go ahead and round that up to two bucks each.


  • Reply 8 of 13
    I, like millions of other "white-color" workers, have been working remotely for a year now.  I've only set foot in my office once in the past year.  And, fortunately for myself and the company, this has worked remarkably well.  It turns out that going to the office every day is not essential being productive in our "knowledge worker" jobs.  The company is likely going to allow most workers to be 100% "remote" (depending on their job).  So this has raised the question of why we have to live in the area (the Washington, DC region) which has higher than average costs of living. 

    Interestingly, the question of whether you can move out of the area and still work for the company has received an answer of "it depends on what state you intend to move to."

    If a single employee is allowed to move to, say, California, then the company will be obligated to follow California state law with regard to that employee (including that state's "anti-wage-theft" regulations).  Some states have laws that are easy to comply with, others are more complicated and/or more onerous.  California is in that latter category.  Therefore we expect California will be on the list of states to which we cannot move and remain with the company.  Most of us find that a bit bizarre, but it is what it is.  I can't blame my employer.  If a company like Apple can run afoul of California labor laws, what hope does a small east coast company have of complying.  So the solution is to not let any of us live in California.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Geeky law question for any lawyers out there (or legal dabblers like myself):  why is this lawsuit being handled in Federal court rather than California court.  It appears to be in both.  For example, the California Supreme Court ruled against Apple in overturning a lower state court ruling.  AND a Federal appeals court did exactly the same thing with respect to a lower Federal district court ruling.  What's going on here.

    Often a state ruling will be appealed in federal court, but that's not what appears to be happening here.  Are there two parallel law suits happening at the state and federal level at the same time?  So Apple could end up having two different courts issue compensation for the same violation?  I know it's technically/legally possible to be tried in state and federal court for the same crime without violating the principle of double jeopardy, but this almost never happens in parallel (as opposed to charging someone in federal court if the state fails to indict or convict). I would have thought the same would generally occur for civil matters.

    Any thoughts (on the legal process of this case/these cases)?
  • Reply 10 of 13
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,881member
    chadbag said:
    This is just bad on Apple’s part. 

    If Apple doesn’t trust their employees, how can the employees or anyone trust Apple?

    It seems the cost of doing the checks is greater than any minimal amount of theft they might happen. 
    Many employees are untrustworthy, opportunistic thieves at all levels of salary. Ask any business owner how much profit they lose due to employee theft. Where I worked for 34 years employee theft of tools, equipment, office supplies, you name it, was common. Managers looked the other way too. So I have no problem with Apple’s employee screening. That being said, if Apple is going to keep employees after their shifts end then they should be paid for their time.
    edited March 4 randominternetpersonRayz2016
  • Reply 11 of 13
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 1,966member

    I like this quote from the article: "Plaintiffs claimed that routine wait times during these security checks deprived them of wages amounting to more than $1,400 per year."

    Sounds about right to me, go ahead and pay the plaintiffs $1,400.  That works out to a little more than a dollar for each of the 12,400 members of the class.  I'd go ahead and round that up to two bucks each.


    That and you can guarantee that the continuing lawyers fees are massively more than the $17m that Apple would have to dish out to the employees. It's absurd and disheartening that an almost $2tn company is so bothered about giving $17m (0.00085% of Apple's value) to their employees for time forcibly spent at the stores, and that they have fought paying for 8 years.

    Cook is happy to dish out $100m on a diversity drive PR exercise, but when it comes to actual workers he wrings them dry. That is not the company that any of us want Apple to be.
    edited March 4 muthuk_vanalingamgatorguy
  • Reply 12 of 13
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,559member
    chadbag said:
    This is just bad on Apple’s part. 

    If Apple doesn’t trust their employees, how can the employees or anyone trust Apple?

    It seems the cost of doing the checks is greater than any minimal amount of theft they might happen. 

    You're kidding right?! You implicitly would trust every one of your tens of thousands of retail employees? Retailers have and always will require bag searches and the use of transparent bags for employee use on site.
    randominternetpersonlkrupp
  • Reply 13 of 13
    I, like millions of other "white-color" workers, have been working remotely for a year now.  I've only set foot in my office once in the past year.  And, fortunately for myself and the company, this has worked remarkably well.  It turns out that going to the office every day is not essential being productive in our "knowledge worker" jobs.  The company is likely going to allow most workers to be 100% "remote" (depending on their job).  So this has raised the question of why we have to live in the area (the Washington, DC region) which has higher than average costs of living. 

    Interestingly, the question of whether you can move out of the area and still work for the company has received an answer of "it depends on what state you intend to move to."

    If a single employee is allowed to move to, say, California, then the company will be obligated to follow California state law with regard to that employee (including that state's "anti-wage-theft" regulations).  Some states have laws that are easy to comply with, others are more complicated and/or more onerous.  California is in that latter category.  Therefore we expect California will be on the list of states to which we cannot move and remain with the company.  Most of us find that a bit bizarre, but it is what it is.  I can't blame my employer.  If a company like Apple can run afoul of California labor laws, what hope does a small east coast company have of complying.  So the solution is to not let any of us live in California.
    The difference in state regulations is probably why they insist on living in DC.  Assuming California law applies to a company whose only offices are in DC (IANAL, so I just don't know) because an employee lives there, if they arbitrarily decide that you can live in say, North Carolina, but not California, a judge is likely to look upon that with some disfavor.  Now, if they said that you could live anywhere the company has an office, that would likely pass muster.
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