Apple Must Pay Store Employees For Bag Search Time, Court Rules

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Apple Store workers deserve to be paid for the time spent waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their shift, according to the rules of the California Supreme Court.

James Martin / CNET

Apple has to pay its retail store workers the time they spend waiting for the mandatory bag search at the end of their shift, the California Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. The decision is retroactive, but it was not immediately clear how much Apple should pay.

The decision arises from a class action filed in 2013 by two former employees of Apple stores in New York and Los Angeles, who alleged employees of physical locations had to queue up to 30 minutes each day for store managers to check their bags to make sure they did not smuggle stolen property from home. Failure to comply could result in the dismissal of the employee, the lawsuit said.

the the trial 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 bring bags to work, thereby avoiding the search process. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the state’s Supreme Court later this year.

"Under the circumstances of this case and the realities of everyday life in the 21st century, we find Apple's far-fetched and untenable claim that its bag search policy can be justified as providing an advantage to its employees," wrote Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. in the decision (PDF).

The court specifically disputed Apple’s claim that employees did not need to bring bags to work and said that Apple’s restriction on the bags of employees at work would be “draconian”.

"Since Apple requires its employees to wear Apple-branded clothing while at work, but orders them to remove or cover it when outside of the Apple Store, it is reasonable to assume that some employees will wear their work uniforms or a change of clothes in a bag in order to comply with Apple's mandatory dress code policy, "she wrote.

The court ruled that, since Apple requires employees to do research, the law requires employees to be paid for their time.

"Apple can adapt its bag search policy as tightly or broadly as it wants and can reduce the time required for exit searches," wrote Cantil-Sakauye. "But it must compensate the employees to whom the policy applies for the time spent waiting and undergoing these searches." "

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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