Supreme Court rules Apple is breaking the law not paying employees during bag searches

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Court has ruled on complaint dating back to 2013.
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Should Apple have to pay retail employees during mandatory bag and iPhone searches at the end of their shifts? Yes, says California’s Supreme Court.

The battle over off-the-clock work has been raging since 2013. Apple previously won at the trial level in District Court for the Northern District of California. However, a new ruling says that Apple broke the law by not paying workers for this time.

The crux of the off-the-clock work issue is whether the employee is controlled by the employer. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye says that, in this instance, Apple Store employees are “clearly under Apple’s control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches.”

The court decision on bag searches notes that employees are prevented from leaving until they undergo an exit search. This process can take anywhere between five and 20 minutes.

“Under the circumstances of this case and the realities of ordinary, 21st century life, we find far-fetched and untenable Apple’s claim that its bag-search policy can be justified as providing a benefit to its employees,” the court said.

Ironically, one of Apple’s claims was undone by its own advertising. Apple had argued that employees could choose to leave their iPhones at home. But the court noted that:

“Its characterization of the iPhone as unnecessary for its own employees is directly at odds with its description of the iPhone as an ‘integrated and integral’ part of the lives of everyone else.”

Next, the case will return to the Ninth Circuit. Since the ruling is retroactive, a class action suit could ultimately cost Apple millions of dollars in backpay. Back in 2013, Apple Store employees who filed a bag search complaint said they were being shorted around $1,500 a year in unpaid wages as a result.

Source: Bloomberg Law