Apple secures victory in employee bag search lawsuit

Apple staff considered bag searches demeaning and a way for the firm to avoid wages, but a federal judge has disagreed.

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Roy Zipstein | Apple

A class action lawsuit levied against Apple over searching staff bags and the loss of pay this practice allegedly resulted in has been thrown out by a federal judge.

The case against the iPad and iPhone maker, brought forward on behalf of over 12,400 former and current employees at Apple's 52 Californian retail stores, argued that Apple policies resulted in lost wages for staff.

Apple insists on an "Employee Package and Bag Search" policy which permits employees to bring bags and devices to work -- such as mobile devices -- on the understanding their bags would be checked for any thieved products at the end of the day.

The problem is that this rule, while it can help prevent the loss of Apple products -- which are not exactly cheap -- also means employees are stuck in line at the end of the day and sometimes on lunch breaks, losing out on personal time.

According to the lawsuit, while in a queue the policy should be based upon the Fair Labor Standards Act, and therefore staff are entitled to overtime.

If Apple did not succeed in having the case thrown out, the tech giant would need to compensate former and current employees for lost wages. Based on queues which sometimes lasted as long as half an hour, lost wages were calculated as approximately $1,500 per year for each employee.

Staff had to clock out before undergoing the searches and were sometimes left waiting until a manager -- who might be serving a customer -- could be found.

As staff had already completed their time sheets, they were not paid for this additional daily check.

The decision in Apple's favor, filed Saturday by San Francisco-based US District Court Judge William Alsup, outlines free choice as a "fatal" flaw in the lawsuit.

In other words, you don't have to bring a bag to work, and so if you do not, you do not have to go through the mandatory search process.

Alsup said:

"Apple took a milder approach to theft prevention and offered its employees the option to bring bags and personal Apple devices into a store subject to the condition that such items must be searched when they leave the store."

The ruling comes after Amazon won a case against workers who argued the time they spent going through security screenings at warehouses amounted to lost wages.

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