Apple Retail Employees Lose Lawsuit Over Store Search Policy

Apple retail store workers lost a two-year-old class-action lawsuit against the iPhone maker regarding its bag-search anti-theft policy. Apple store managers routinely check employee bags to prevent stealing.

In 2013, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Apple, Inc. by five retail employees over the company’s theft discouragement practice. Apple performs the search every time an employee leaves the store, including meal breaks.

As reported by CNN Money, the retail employees claimed they had to wait five to 10 minutes each time for someone to search their bags before they could leave. According to the court documents filed on behalf of more than 12,400 employees at 52 California Apple Stores, the extra time cost employees about $1,500 per year in lost wages.

Apple store employees will not be reimbursed for lost wages.
Apple store employees lose their class-action lawsuit over security checks. [Photo by John Gress / Getty Images]
On Saturday, a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed the case. He ruled that Apple did not have to pay store staff for that extra time. The judge said the screenings were not part of the employee’s work responsibilities.

U.S. district judge William Alsup stated his position in the ruling.

“Apple could have alleviated [theft concerns] by prohibiting its employees from bringing personal bags or personal Apple devices into the store. Instead, Apple took the lesser step of giving its employees the optional benefit of bringing such items to work, which comes with the condition that they must undergo searches.”

He further explained, “It is undisputed that some employees did not bring bags to work and thereby did not have to be searched when they left the store.”

The unnecessary delay could have been avoided if the employee chose not to bring a bag to work. Additionally, no Apple employee filed any documentation with the court claiming a specific need to have a bag.

According to the New York Times, two Apple retail workers complained directly to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, about the practice. As revealed through court documents, Cook received emails from the employees stating the bag searches belittled and embarrassed them.

Some workers have accused Apple store managers of blocking emergency exits with product boxes to maintain superior control of entrance and exit points. Another employee complained Apple treated its employees “as animals and thieves.”

Apple has not commented on the matter. Interestingly, Cook claimed a few months ago that he was not even aware of the bag search policy in the stores. Regardless, no changes to the policy have been made.

A similar lawsuit was brought against Amazon by seven warehouse workers, claiming workplace policies left them with little time to eat lunch. They claimed Amazon made them wait for a security screening even though their half-hour lunch break had already begun.

Once the screening was complete, they still had to walk across the massive warehouse just to get outside. They were left with “less than 18 minutes” for lunch before having to head back to work.

Court rules in favor of Apple in case similar to one brought against Amazon.
Amazon warehouse workers filed a similar class-action lawsuit. [Photo by Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images]
The lawsuit alleged that Amazon’s practice violated federal and state labor laws.

Ultimately, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling said employees do not have any right under the law to be paid for time spent in post-shift searches. The court unanimously rejected the claims against the online retail giant.

“The screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packaging them for shipment,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas.

The judge dismissing the Apple employee lawsuit must come as welcome news as the tech giant hasn’t been so lucky lately.

Apple recently lost a multi-million dollar patent lawsuit brought by the University of Wisconsin. Last month the Inquisitr reported that Apple may have to pay up to $862 million in damages for infringing on a technology patent filed by the university in 1998.

Apple has won this lawsuit, at least for now. It is unclear whether the Apple retail employees will appeal the decision. Attorney for the plaintiffs, Lee Shalov, is disappointed with the lawsuit’s outcome and will be looking at all options.

If the judge had ruled in favor of the retail employees, Apple would be forced to pay about $60 million, plus penalties.

[Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for Apple]

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