California Judge Rules Apple Workers Can Sue as a Class Over Searches

July 17, 2015

For California workers seeking to be paid for time spent getting bags searched after their shifts end, state law may provide the remedy that federal law doesn’t.

On Thursday, a judge in San Francisco said that Apple Inc. store workers in California can sue as a class in their bid for to be paid for time spent in “demoralizing” security searches of their bags when they leave work each day.

The ruling that more than 12,000 workers from more than 50 stores in the state can sue as a group may put the world’s most valuable technology company on trial over its treatment of a staff known for almost cult-like loyalty. The policy is intended to stop employees from pilfering merchandise.

Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Photo by Joe Ravi, C-BY-SA 3.0.
Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Photo by Joe Ravi, C-BY-SA 3.0.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that workers don’t have a right to be paid for time spent in post-shift security searches under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. New York law mirrors the federal FLSA, and as a result, the Apple plaintiffs’ claims under that state’s statutes had already been dismissed.

But California law governing compensation for time worked differs. It turns on whether the employer has control over the employee. And that is the law which will govern the Apple case, which is in federal court.

Rachel Wolf, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment on the ruling.

The case is Frlekin v. Apple Inc., 13-cv-03451, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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