Judge dismisses Apple Store employee ‘bag check’ lawsuits following Supreme Court ruling

‘Citing a recent Supreme Court ruling, a federal court judge last week dismissed a pair of proposed class action lawsuits leveled against Apple by its retail employees, who argued the company’s anti-theft policies incurred lost wages,” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider.

“Last Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsop dismissed with prejudice a suit alleging loss prevention practices applied at Apple Stores across the country deprived workers of “millions of dollars” in wages and overtime,” Campbell reports. “Judge Alsop’s ruling hinges on a unanimous Supreme Court decision regarding a similar situation involving employee security checks and overtime pay.”

Campbell reports, “In the case INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK, the court found a temp agency not responsible for paying out Amazon warehouse workers subject to mandatory security screening…”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple Retail Store employee files class action lawsuit over lost wages due to bag searches – October 12, 2013
Apple retail workers file class action suit claiming lost wages over bag searches – July 29, 2013

42 Comments

  1. This case is another example of abuse of workers. Pro-crony-capitalist courts do their hatched job. What is left is to roll back all the rest of protections and go back to 19th Century, which children in the mines on 90 hours work week.

    1. I guess we see it differently.

      Unions infiltrated Apple retail employees and this is just another chapter where union workers want more, more, more. But what do they give, give, give in return?

      You may call them Crony Capitalists, but then that would be Apple, right?

      They pay a fair wage and everyone knows the score and it is legal. You don’t like it — move on to a degree or a better job.

      1. … to be paid for the time they spend doing the bidding of their employer. As they are paid by the hour, that is their right.
        If Apple does NOT want to pay them more, Apple could easily have the employees end their shifts a few minutes early and use those minutes – on the “working” side of the time-clock – to do the security check. Once the employees punch out, Apple has no real recourse to insisting said employees remain on the premises at their own expense, doing Apple’s bidding.
        @Macinfo: while MOST security scans take but a moment or two, the social interaction may well take longer and the waiting IN LINE for a dozen employees can take a while. Not a problem, if handled BEFORE the employee punches out for the day.

        1. @The union workers want …

          Yeah, they always want more. Gee, what a surprise. That said, Apple employees are NOT in a union. So your avatar is misleading and your post irrelevant.

          So I could not care less what unions want because in the end, it always comes out of consumer pockets.

        2. Or….

          Apple could reduce their pay and then pay them for the extra 15 minutes or so if needed. Sorry but I’m a business owner and if the workers feel the need to charge me for every freak’n second then I would play the game too.
          BTW, I’m going to start charging the workers for their training, their longer then normal breaks, for being late, screw sick leave or vacation days.

          Better yet, I’ll find employees that appreciate what I do for them, that’s much easier. There you go, I’ll bet those folks will be happy now.

          1. edirol_sp, and contrarian, I run several businesses and I would NEVER have employees on site and not pay them for every second of their time on MY clock.
            I understand that *I* profit from THEIR time, and I treat them that way.

            You go ahead and charge workers for their training from which you benefit and why not charge them for working for you, too?

            You’re exactly the type of person that creates and maintains the NEED for unions.

            1. Look, just making a point. I provide a lot to my employee and they appreciate it. I do all I can and then some (as does Apple) but if it comes to the point where they start sewing me then something is broken.

              If push comes to shove, I can only give so much. I’m the one taking the risks, putting in more hours, risking my future and my children’s future. I don’t need a union lawyer telling me what I can or can’t afford.

              Without jobs, there is no union. I’ve never seen a union pay anyones taxes or their unemployment.

        3. The whole suit is ridiculous. How long could it possibly take to have your bags checked as you leave work? 2, 3 minutes at most?

          Even at $60/hour (likely double or triple what they’re making), you’re talking $2 or $3 per day, before taxes.

          At their *actual* likely rates, you’re down to $0.60 – $1.00 or so per day. Again, before taxes.

          As is so often the case, the only ones who would get anything meaningful out of such a lawsuit is the bloodsucking leech attorneys involved.

    2. I have some sympathy for the workers. Apple has a right to prevent employee theft in its retail stores, but its processes should not unduly inconvenience them or occupy excessive amounts of their time without reasonable compensation.

      We should strive for balance and reason in these situations. There should be no need for lawsuits.

      1. I just finished reading the Supreme Court decision that is related to this case. The Congress passed the Portal to Portal act in 1947 specifically to address this, and set the precedent that employees are not entitled to compensation for ingress or egress activities related to work, which include walking to, waiting in line to check in, checking in, and similarly checking out and waiting in line to check out from work.

        The Supreme Court decision is consistent with almost 70 years of jurisprudence in this case and was unanimous. How often does the court rule unanimously?

        You may feel an employee is entitled to compensation for this activity, and indeed an employer is free to pay employees for this time, but it is not legally required to under the FLSA.

    3. The workers have the right to go get another job if they don’t like it.

      If I’m not mistaken, these are NOT minimum wage jobs and the workers are aware of the situation before they are hired. This is not slave labor.

          1. So slave to the union and NOT your employer paycheck means nothing to you?

            True story. My brother belonged to a trade union and they rejected all the company proposals. The company went out of business and the aging walls are still crumbling 20 years later.

            The union president proudly proclaimed at the time, the union WON.

            Tell me again who is not thinking this through. Parasites.

    4. Ok, derss, why should a worker who chooses to bring a bag to work get more pay than a similar worker who does NOT bring a bag to work? The worker without a bag to check can probably walk right out. . . ergo, the solution lends itself to the smart worker: don’t bring bags to work. Many large stores require their female employees and male employees who choose to carry a purse to use a transparent one. . . where any stolen merchandise being carried out can be easily spotted by loss prevention agents. . . another solution is that secure lockers where employees can store wallets, bags, purses, and other personal items, are situated outside merchandise areas and accessible only before clocking in and after clocking out. Store uniforms would have no pockets. There problem fixed.

  2. I am not sure how long a Employee security scan took, but if an employee doesn’t have anything to hide, and takes nothing into work in which something could be hidden for theft, the exit scan seemingly should take moments and not add up to anything.

    1. “Seemingly” is the key word here but that is not the case. As many employees start and stop at the same time, they end up forming lines for their inspections. The employees are required to wait in line for their turn to be inspected. These waits can typically take 10-15 minutes per day (for multiple entries and exits) and have been known to take over 45 minutes for a single inspection.
      Being forced to wait 45 minutes without pay seems very unreasonable to me.

      1. It may “seem unreasonable” but it is entirely consistent with nearly 70 years of court rulings and precedence and related to the 1947 Portal to Portal Act which precludes employees extracting pay from employers under the FLSA for activities that are involved in getting to and from work that are not principle to the labor they are being paid for.

        For example a meat worker is entitled to being paid for the time it takes to sharpen his knives as that is principle to the labor he is being hired to perform, similarly a battery plant worker is entitled to the time required to don protective gear and for the time to wash off the gear once labor is complete, but a rocket plant worker is not entitled to the time required to check to make sure he is not carrying incendiaries such as matches, nor the time required to ensure that he is not stealing from the premises at the end of his day of labor. This is the law as has been understood since 1947 nearly 70 years, and has held up through multiple court rulings and the SCOTUS ruling was unanimous.

        1. But, much like the law that used to prohibit inter-racial couples to marry, this law is simply wrong, or at best imprecise.

          The whole thing hinges on REASONABLE wait. If your employer holds you against your will for an unreasonable amount of time, you cannot go elsewhere to work and are losing wages because of the UNREASONABLE wait, which is completely within your employer’s control. Because of this law, employers don’t really have to make it easier for people to leave work; one single checkpoint is enough, and the inspection staff can take as much time as they wish.

          The law is bad and should be changed, or challenged, perhaps even constitutionally. It seems to be that the attack angle so far was simply not right (asking to be paid for the waiting time, instead of asking for damages for lost wages due to being held against will).

    2. I don’t remember if it happened to Apple specifically, but at least some workplace’s clock-out security checks were holding workers 5-15 minutes each time, either because authorized checkers (managers?) were too busy or there was a lineup. Meaning even if you didn’t have a bag to search (but how many walk out in their high-visibility work clothes?), you might be stuck behind others who do.

      A 15 minute wait *is* unreasonable to ask of a part-time hourly worker, when you consider that’s the length of a stingy lunch break in many places.

      1. The time required to leave for the workers in the recent SCOTUS ruling on INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK was “roughly 25 minutes each day”, and the court ruling was unanimous in rejecting this as requiring compensation under the FLSA based on the 1947 Portal to Portal Act. Employees may work somewhere that requires them over 30 minute walk from a parking lot to where they clock in, that time is not on the employer’s dime.

        1. Regrettably, that is a wrong decision from every possible angle.

          Walk from the parking lot is a commute that is part of the time it takes an employee to get to work and back. In most cases, walking distance (and time needed to cover it) between the parking lot and the employer’s premises is not within employer’s reasonable control, and cannot be compared with employee being asked to wait (i.e. being prohibited to leave upon completion of shift). Employer can easily add more inspection points in order to facilitate employees’ departure without UNREASONABLE wait.

  3. The complaint says Apple employees are forced to wait in line to get in and out of work and going to and coming from lunch. The waits are often require 10-15 minutes per day and have been known to sometimes take in excess of 45 minutes for a single inspection.
    It seems to me that, if this is a requirement for the job, Apple should be paying the employees for their time. Either you are paying the employee or he is free to go. You can’t keep him around for no pay.

    1. Exactly. Either pay the workers for that extra time (1-5 minutes wait to be checked is still reasonable, 5-10 is iffy, and 15-45 minutes is definitely not ok!), or pay for additional checkers to reduce that time. The latter probably costs less in the long run and avoids any attempt at “gaming” extra time during the bag check.

      Apple has the cash to make it right for its workers (and yes, these *are* Apple workers), and shouldn’t be like “well other retailers don’t have to so why should Apple” because those other retailers aren’t pulling in the same profit per square foot. Apple doesn’t stoop to the level that others do for their products, they shouldn’t stoop to their level in retail either.

      1. Mossman you can make a moral argument that an employer *should* do this because it is the right thing to do. You cannot make a legal argument that it is required because there is nearly 70 years of jurisprudence that unanimously disagrees with you. The recent SCOTUS recently affirmed this long standing precedent that employers are not required to pay an employee for time that it takes to get to and from the labor he is hired to perform.

        1. I still believe, regardless of seven decades of jurisprudence and recent affirmation of the doctrine, there should have been a way to compel Apple to solve this problem, and it is clearly a problem in need of a solution.

          Asking to be paid for time spent waiting in line obviously won’t work since legal precedents abound. However, the outcome might have been different if their attempt was to compel Apple to remedy the problem directly (by improving efficiency of security screening, such as creating multiple inspection points and hiring more inspection agents). If this had been the angle, and Apple still refused to remedy the problem, then the case would have been about compensation for lost time / wages due to unreasonable waiting time.

          Otherwise, since no prior law deems wait time compensable, the employer could hold staff for an hour, 90 minutes, two hours…

  4. There are two very legitimate angles of this case.

    The workers frame it as unpaid time spent at place of work. They are ready to leave the place of work after the end of the shift, but the employer holds them there for unreasonable amount of time, without compensating them for that time.

    Apple frames this as time employees take to get to and from work; essentially, the part of their commute. Sometimes your subway train goes smoothly, other times, you have to wait for it and it travels slowly, and your commute may be 10 – 15 minutes longer than usual. Same with the screening; it has nothing to do with what Apple pays you to do at work, but it delays your trip home after work.

    While both arguments are quite legitimate, the first one sounds more reasonable. The time for commute is outside of employer’s (and employee’s) control; whether it takes 15 or 45 minutes to travel from an Apple Store to employee’s home is beyond his (or Apple’s) ability to control. However, Apple is solely responsible for unreasonably extending that commute by requiring employees to wait before they can exit the store.

    While the Supreme Court has clearly stated that waiting in line to leave work doesn’t constitute productive contribution and should therefore not be compensated, the workers may have another angle of approach, and that is illegally detaining workers (not permitting them to leave when they want).

    The whole point of this is quite reasonable; when you are a part-time employee and put in some 4 – 5 hours a day, you feel shortchanged when you are forced to spend another 45 minutes at the place of work without getting paid. Many part-time employees run from one job to the other. The 45 minutes that Apple has held them at their place of work without paying them means they’ll have 45 fewer minutes to work at their other job(s).

    1. However, if the same workers are bound by contract, complete with their signature and prior authorization, they cannot leave the premises until they pass inspection. Rest assured, this is the case.
      Leaving the premises prior to or in avoidance of inspection is dereliction and suspect… And will void their contractual good fortune.

      1. Well, I don’t think any of those employees want to leave the premises in avoidance of the inspection; they just want to LEAVE the premises, and Apple is detaining them, not allowing them to leave immediately after completing their shift. The argument about dereliction doesn’t hold water, since presumably none of these people attempted to leave without going through inspeciton; they just wanted to leave without having to be detained more than what is reasonable for the inspection (and 30 minutes is unreasonable by any definition).

        1. Regardless of what “seems” reasonable for inspection time, or any other ingress or egress activities for labor, it is is not labor that the employees were hired to perform and thus not legally entitled to compensation.

          1. They never asked for compensation originally; all they wanted was to leave unimpeded. And reasonable wait is precisely the essence of this dispute. You, as an employer, have no right to hold your employee against his/her will at the place of employment beyond reasonable time (for whatever activity ancillary to the entry / exit from work). Again, reasonable time is the most critical aspect of this.

            Since these employees complained to their employer that they are being kept waiting (against their will) long after their shift was completed, and their employer did nothing to remedy that problem, they decided to seek monetary damages for lost wages for the time they were made waiting.

            Mind you, they don’t have to ask to be paid for the time they waited in line (as if being paid for work); they should be entitled to compensation for lost wages, since those who work several jobs (especially part-time workers) couldn’t be at their other job during the time they were kept waiting.

            Bottom line: they are held against their will beyond REASONABLE time, and aren’t being compensated for the inconvenience / lost time/wages. Case is quite clear.

  5. You could say the glass is half full. Or the glass is half empty.

    But really, we should be asking just who authorised the acquisition of a glass that is clearly over specified (double the capacity) for the purpose intended.

    Apple employs staff to work in its Apple Stores across the world in which every aspect of the environment has been very carefully and meticulously thought through, designed then implemented in a deliberate and calculated manner to a very high, exacting standard.

    By every aspect I mean from the visible stuff like “design and architecture” and “tables and layout” to intangibles like “systems, processes and procedures”.

    They have sweat the small stuff to create a remarkable revolution in retailing. Heck, there’s even the story about SJ scratching the project and going back to basics to think through and rework the concept and design for a vastly different and superior customer experience just weeks before the first store was opened.

    Turning to this case, one needs to assess whether Apple intentionally designed their “systems, processes and procedures” for executing a security requirement to be inefficient across all its operations or if it is merely a case of sporadic and rare inefficient application (of otherwise good practices) in a few cases resulting in delays of up to 45min.

    Not knowing the intricacies of the case, I would speculate that with this Supreme Court ruling in its favour, it’s down to the latter i.e., a few instances of inefficient application of otherwise good “systems, processes and procedures”.

    The intervention of a union however is an expensive, unnecessary distraction which is counter-productive and frankly, anachronistic. The role of such institutions has to be questioned particularly in an era of innovation, lean thinking and proactive values-based employee engagement.

    Just how do unions add value to enterprises such as this corporation? If they are still relevant today, why don’t they exist in startup situations other than as investors?

    Before posting a response to this question, do consider the fact that many unions have invested billions of dollars of their members pension funds in corporations like Apple Inc. And by placing such “investor bets”, they have created a clear conflict of interest against the very members they represent.

  6. I’ve noticed these same employees waiting in line to get lunch…That can’t be right, they are at their job site. I guess that waiting should also be covered in the form of a longer lunch? or a paid block of time?

    The job they are paid for is to interact with customers, not paid to wait in line for security checks. read the SCOTUS view on this. You want to claim it’s just business controlling the courts, that’s your right to say, doesn’t mean you are correct though.

    So I figure two or three more posts and Godwins Rule will kick in.

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