The California Supreme Court recently clarified that California law requires that Apple Inc. pay its workers for all time they spend waiting to be searched before leaving Apple retail stores.
In Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., workers at Apple’s retail stores filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc. in federal court asserting that they had to submit to mandatory searches before leaving the store at which they worked – and that Apple did not compensate them for the time it took to conduct the searches (including the time the employees spent waiting to be searched).
To prevent theft, Apple requires workers at its 52 stores throughout California to submit to exit searches of bags, purses, backpacks, brief cases, packages, and personal Apple devices (such as iPhones). Employees are instructed to find a manager or security officer to conduct the searches – after the employee has clocked out from his or her shift. The workers who brought the class action alleged that waiting for and undergoing the searches took anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes, on very busy days. Failure to comply with the search policy could lead to termination.
A federal district court judge initially ruled in favor of Apple, finding that workers had to prove that they were restrained from leaving and there was no way for them to avoid having personal items searched. The class plaintiffs appealed, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether, under the circumstances alleged in this case, California state law requires that the workers be compensated.
In a unanimous opinion, which applies retroactively, the California Supreme Court held that California law requires Apple to pay employees for the time.
The Court cited California Industrial Wage Order 7, which requires an employer to pay employees for “all hours worked,” and defines “hours worked” as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.”
Apple argued that it could prohibit employees from bringing any bags or personal Apple devices into its stores, but instead “gave them that benefit.” The Supreme Court rejected this argument out of hand, stating that a ban on all personal items would be “draconian.” The Court wrote that “[u]nder the circumstances of this case and the realities of ordinary 21st century life, we find farfetched and untenable Apple’s claim that its bag-search policy can be justified as providing a benefit to its employees.” The Court recognized that workers may need a bag to hold ordinary everyday items, such as wallets, keys, cellphones, glasses, and water bottles. The Court stated that Apple’s proposed rule conditioning compensation for the time spent waiting for or participating in the exit searches on whether an employee could theoretically avoid bringing a purse, bag, or iPhone to work did not offer a “workable standard, and certainly not an employee protective one.”
The Supreme Court’s full decision is available here.