Apple bag search lawsuit moves to Californian Supreme Court


The case centres on whether employees are entitled to be paid while waiting for shop managers and security staff to check their personal belongings when they leave.

The case against Apple as to whether employees are entitled to be paid while waiting for shop managers and security staff to check their personal belongings when they leave has now moved to the Californian Supreme Court.

The Californian Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the state’s Supreme Court to answer the question of: “Is time spent on the employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages or bags voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order Number 7”.

The long-running dispute initially started in 2013 when shop floor workers Amanda Friekin, Taylor Kalin, Aaron Gregoroff, Seth Downling and Debra Speicher filed a class action suit against Apple, complaining that their treatment by the computer giant was “embarrassing”, “demeaning” and “disturbing”.

Shop staff were required to clock off before finding a manager or security guard to go through their personal belongings in order to see whether they had stolen anything.

The appeals court said: “Employees receive no compensation for the time spent waiting for and undergoing exit searches, because they must clock out before undergoing a search. Employees who fail to comply with the Policy are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

It also noted that: “California law provides no clear answer to the certified question.”

While Apple concedes that staff are under its “control” in the time between clocking off and when the search takes place, it attests that this does not amount to “hours worked” for employment law purposes. The company also attests that the search is not compulsory “because the employees may avoid a search by declining to bring a bag or package to work”.

As pointed out by the appeals court, “the consequences of any interpretation of the Wage Order will have significant legal, economic, and practical consequences for employers and employees throughout the state of California”.