A U.S. District Judge ruled that a class-action lawsuit against Apple regarding employee bag searches and “personal technology checks” can proceed. The suit is brought by former Apple retail store employees who allege these uncompensated security screenings can last between 10–15 minutes each time, including time spent waiting in line to be checked. Accordingly, the former employees allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, along with violations of various California, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio state labor and unfair competition laws.
It is Apple policy that employee bags are routinely searched for possibly stolen merchandise whenever employees clock out for lunch and at the end of their shift. Such searches are common and performed by nearly all retail stores to prevent loss of merchandise. However, the plaintiffs in this case differentiate Apple searches from normal loss prevention searches by noting that Apple retail store employees are subject to additional “personal technology checks” in which managers compare the serial numbers of employees’ Apple devices to a recorded list.
Apple has claimed that its store employees should not be paid for the searches because they are optional. Apple explains the searches are optional because retail staff are not required to bring bags to work, and that they can avoid the technology checks if they don’t use iPhones or other Apple devices. One can imagine a hundred reasons why an employee would have to bring a bag to work for reasons they cannot control, and it is harder to imagine an Apple retail store employee leaving all their Apple devices at home.
The judge agreed to stay part of the proceedings pending a Supreme Court case about unpaid searches of employees who work in Amazon warehouses. Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court case, this case can likely go forward under California law. A trial would be helpful to learn more about the nature of unpaid employee searches.