Apple must pay store employees for luggage search time, court rules


Apple store employees deserve to be paid for the time they spend waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their shifts, the California Supreme Court rules.

James Martin / CNET

Apple must pay its retail store employees for the time they spend waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their shifts, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The decision is retroactive, but it was not immediately clear how much Apple would have to pay.

The decision is derived from a class action lawsuit filed in 2013 by two former Apple store workers in New York and Los Angeles that alleged employees in physical locations had to stand in line for 30 minutes every day for store managers to check their bags to make sure they were not smuggling stolen goods to House. Failure to comply could lead to termination of the employee, the lawsuit said.

the demand was dismissed in 2015 by US District Court Judge William Alsup, who ruled in favor of Apple's argument that employees were free not to carry a bag to work, thus avoiding the search process. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the state Supreme Court later that year.

"Under the circumstances of this case and the realities of ordinary life of the 21st century, we find Apple's wild and unsustainable claim that its suitcase search policy can be justified as a benefit to its employees," wrote the judge of the Court Supreme Tani Cantil-Sakauye in the decision (PDF).

The court specifically disagreed with Apple's claim that employees did not need to carry bags to work and said an Apple restriction on employees' bags at work would be "draconian."

"Since Apple requires its employees to wear Apple-branded clothing while they work, but instructs them to take off or cover that clothing while outside the Apple store, it is reasonable to assume that some employees will wear their work uniform or a change of clothes in a bag to comply with Apple's mandatory dress code policy, "he wrote.

The court ruled that because Apple requires employees to conduct searches, the law requires that employees be paid for their time.

"Apple can adapt its bag search policy as narrowly or widely as it wishes and can minimize the time required for outbound searches," Cantil-Sakauye wrote. "But it must compensate those employees to whom the policy applies for the time they spent waiting and subjected to these searches."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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