Apple defeats U.S. class action ‘bag search’ lawsuit

“Apple Inc. defeated a U.S. class action lawsuit brought by Apple retail workers over bag search practices at the company’s California brick and mortar outlets, according to a court ruling on Saturday,” Dan Levine reports for Reuters.

“The decision, from U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco, came in a case where employees sued to be reimbursed for the time taken by Apple to search their bags to ensure they did not steal any merchandise,” Levine reports. “Lee Shalov, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said they are disappointed by the ruling and intend to explore all options, including a possible appeal.”

“Class members in the bag search case included more than 12,000 current and former employees, according to a previous ruling,” Levine reports. “In the ruling, Alsup said Apple workers can choose not to bring a bag to work, and thus would not be subjected to the delays of a search. No Apple employee filed court papers asserting a special need to bring a bag, Alsup wrote.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: All’s well that ends well.

As we explained back in July: On December 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark 9-0 decision holding that employees’ time spent waiting for and undergoing security screening after their shifts have ended is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

9-0.

More info here.

SEE ALSO:
U.S. judge gives go-ahead to class-action lawsuit by Apple retail employees over bag searches – July 16, 2015

23 Comments

  1. This is a reasonable outcome. Employees are not required to bring anything to work. This seems unfair to female workers who typically have purses. Bags and purses are not a work requirement. It is a personal choice. Another way to look at it – You do have to “drive” to work. The misery of having to waste personal unpaid leave, getting to work.

    They work in an industry rife with employee theft. Apple is not the only retailer which has problems like it. I once worked, at a regional retailer, and they attributed employee theft to $80 million. This was in the 1980’s. Sales to cover the loses, (break even) were another $120 million. $200 million down the drain.

    1. I concur. Small electronics are ripe for theft and Apple has a right and a duty to deter shrinkage. Employees should avoid bringing bags into work to streamline the exit check.

      But Apple is a technology company, and it should be able to figure out a better way for both the company and the retail employees. In addition, I suspect that this lawsuit has somewhat soured Apple’s relationship with to retail employees. My suggestion is that Apple seek to work with its retail managers and employees to find a better way – process, technology, accommodations such as a bag drop off cubicle…some process to avoid the exit line delay as well as the negative morale impact of making your honest and valued employees feel like they are being treated like criminals.

      If the Apple retail employees feel valued and included in retail operations, then they will serve both the company and the customers better.

      1. So if I read you correctly, Apple could have a DMZ for bag check-in and lockers for personal security. Because all personal items are in the DMZ, employees just need observation while going to the DMZ, avoiding any checks in the first place. Maybe a metal detector too/ X-ray too?

        1. It is worth consideration. Separate the retail area from bag storage. But there are many possibilities, and there may be a better solution.

          The key issue, IMO, is that most employees are honest. The current approach that Apple is using wastes their time and makes them feel disrespected, and that is bad for everyone – the company, the employees, and the customer.

  2. “Thus, our plaintiffs could all freely choose not to bring bags to work, thereby avoiding Apple’s restrictions during exit searches. That free choice is fatal to their claims,”

  3. This is a very disturbing decision. The related SCOTUS decision hinged on a theory that the bag search requirement (and theft of the employees time) was OK because it wasn’t part of the job the employee was hired to perform. By that logic, cleaning the restrooms isn’t part of the the job but could be required to be done without compensation.

    Amazon was behind the first decision. It’s a shame to see Apple follow in their footsteps. It may be necessary to have security checks. It isn’t necessary to take more than about 20 seconds to get the employee on their way.

    But why should we anticipate any of the branches of government to look out for “We, the people” when they think corporations are people too. Except when corporations commit a capital crime. Then I t’s just misdemeanor murder and you pay a fine.

    1. If you’ve ever performed a job in manufacturing, you would know that you are required to start working as soon as the buzzer sounds. You are expected to be ready to go, and workers have already prepped on their own time, without pay. That’s the way it is, and these whiners in retail get no sympathy from me.

      1. Did that for 30 years. Entered and left through guarded gates with every briefcase, bag and lunchbox checked by security when leaving ( they probably also do it on entry these days). I seldom broke stride passing through the checkpoint. I’d have been trampled by everyone else if I had.

        The key was, there were enough guards to get the job done efficiently, not one dickhead on a power trip forcing people to his will, and start-stop times were staggered so that the number exiting at any instant didn’t overload the guards capacity to check. I will assure you that a routine fifteen minute wait would have been an item for resolution during the next contract negotiation, both with the guards union and the workers and engineers unions. And that’s what’s really missing, a strong voice for workers in American.

        Plus, this isn’t about workers getting ready to work on their own time, it’s about their time being taken before their lunch break and after their shift, waiting for management to clear them to leave. There has to be a better way and it’s a shame Apple doesn’t care enough to figure it out.

      2. A friend worked in the processing division of a mining company that produced (relatively) small amounts of gold and silver in addition to less noble metals. He had to strip naked, walk through a corridor, get work clothes on in the next room, and an leaving, strip and then enter a high pressure shower and pass through a detector before getting back to his civilian clothes.

        I don’t recall if he was compensated for the time, but the company (Kennecott) certainly took security seriously…

  4. This was a very common sense opinion given by the judge. If you don’t want to be searched, don’t bring a bag. In the end, this is all about taking responsibility for your own actions. Apple should not have to pay for someone to bring personal items with them every day in a bag that then has to be searched to make sure that they’re not stealing. If this case can succeed, why not also make Apple pay for time spent looking for a parking space, or for time spent riding public transportation, or anything else that an employee has to do in order to get to and from work. I used to work at an Apple store and I never cared about having to wait to be searched. The wait was minimal. The type of employee that would whine about this is the type that Apple doesn’t need to have anyway.

    1. No, Howie it wasn’t. Think a little deeper, I’ll set a scenario for you:

      Employee A, Female, Diabetic requires insulin. Part time employee. Works and goes to class, often leaves work to catch Public Transport to go to class, or coming to work from class.

      Now tell me again how wrong she is to have a bag? Make her a guy and he has equal reason to have a bag. Apple isn’t paying for someone to bring personal items at all It is disingenuous to argue people shouldn’t be able to carry a bag or have personal possessions in their possession. How about a lunch box? Retail employees certainly cannot afford to eat take out every meal. It isn’t the employees fault Apple has poor inventory control practices in their stores, yet it seems they are forced to pay the price.

      I’d go a step further and argue any time, ANY at all required off the clock is theft. Rest assured if you padded your time click 10 minutes a week you didn’t spend at work, they would prosecute you for wage theft. These are hourly employees, payed to the minute on an hourly scale. I don’t care what kind of authoritarian excuse you want to make, Apple is stealing their time, abusing its position of authority.

  5. This is a bad faith move by Apple.

    I once worked for a security alarm company. It’s rarely the sales employees, but rather those in positions of authority (with keys to the stockroom, cash, and control over the alarm system) who misuse their trust to steal large amounts:

    – A head cook at a local restaurant was “working late”… and going home with full boxes of ribeye steaks, cases of beer and Crown Royal, hosting killer parties for all his friends.
    – A warehouse manager was piling pallets of desirable toys near the loading ramp then returning at 2AM to load them into his truck.
    – A group of restaurant managers would go nightclubbing, come back to work after-hours with their girls, make off with cases of beer, hard liquor, and steaks.
    – A manager was stealing full crates of electronics, tools and wire, selling and installing them using company supplies, in direct competition with his own company.

    ***In all cases, they covered their asses by blaming peons for the theft ***

    They posted blatant anti-theft signage threatening prosecution, openly blamed, intimidated, and even fired employees to impress the bosses. It was quite something to play the records back for the owners and watch their faces go white.

    While it is true that workers will steal, it is almost always one or two items and never in gross amounts, if for no reason other than because they don’t have a cover story beyond “a customer must have stolen it”. If Apple is losing significant amounts, then they need to be focussing on those with keys to the warehouse and stock room, NOT girls potentially going home with one item in their purse.

    1. I could put 3-5 iPhones in my bag, not be easy to see without examining my bag and walk out with a few thousand dollars worth of easily re-sellable merchandise.

  6. I don’t agree, if you are an hourly employee (I am not) then you should be paid for time employees require you to stay at work.
    If it only takes a minute or two them fine. If someone has to wait in a 20 minute line because Apple doesn’t provide adequate security, then they should be compensated.

    1. What do you mean by,,”……Apple doesn’t provide adequate security….”? Jeeesus! There’s a guy who stole almost a million dollars in gift cards. Do you need any more proof that Apple needs bag searches.

      Just leave your bags outside if you don’t want to be searched. The judge has spoken and for once he is right on the button.

      1. If you have to wait 20 to 30 minutes in line (that’s a for instance, I don’t remember what was said in court) to leave work, then there are not enough people to perform the search.

        If Apple wanted to have a no bag policy, then they should have made one. I’m not saying Apple doesn’t have the right to search, they do, just don’t make employees wait for an unreasonable amount of time day after day without fixing the situation.

        This was a problem during the John Browett days. It is no longer a problem because of the quality of management under Angela Ahrendts.

      2. How about if my lunch and diabetic supplies are in the bag? How is this the fault of people carrying bags? Where do you propose they leave the bag? On the bus/train? Should they be forced to pay for a locker each shift because the most profitable company in the WORLD is being a jerk?

  7. Just out of interest, if you don’r bring a bag to work, but instead wear a coat with voluminous pockets, do they still search your coat pockets?

    Plenty of valuable Apple stuff can be slipped into coat pockets – especially if the packaging is removed first.

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