Apple ordered to pay workers for time lost during security searches

Apple employees may be in line for some back pay thanks to a California Supreme Court ruling that says the company has to pay workers at its retail stores for time lost due to mandatory bag and iPhone searches that occurred while they were on the job.

Apple’s policies require employees to subject their personal bags to security searches whenever they leave a store, and register any personal Apple devices they bring to work with their store managers. The Court ruled that while during such searches, Apple employees were under the control of the company and entitled to be paid for their time during the searches.

The ruling in the case, Frlekin vs. Apple Inc., and announced Thursday, stems from a class action suit that covers Apple’s bag search policies dating from June 25, 2009 until the present day. Under the state Supreme Court’s ruling, which is retroactive, more than 12,000 Apple employees that have worked at the company’s 52 stores in California could receive back pay because of Apple’s actions.

Chief Justice Tanil Gorre Cantil-Sakauye wrote the Court’s unanimous decision. In her opinion, Cantil-Sakauye wrote that “time spent on Apple’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, or personal Apple technology devices, such as iPhones, voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience, is compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of Wage Order 7.”

That order, from the state’s Industrial Welfare Commission, requires employers to pay their employees a minimum wage for all hours they work, 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 had won an earlier decision in the case, but the matter was sent to the state Supreme Court on appeal. The Supreme Court said Apple has the right to institute a bag search policy, and implement it in the manner it sees fit. However, the Court also said that Apple was could take steps to cut down on wait times during the searches, such as hiring more security guards, and that the time employees spent during the searches was to be included in their regular work hours.

The ruling will now go back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will determine the amount of compensation. Earlier reports said the Apple employees could be eligible for as much as $60 million in back wages.

Apple didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the matter.

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