Apple Faces Class Action Over Store Bag Searches

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A lawsuit claiming Apple does not properly pay store workers for time taken to have their bags searched is now a class action, a federal judge ruled.
     In their complaint, Apple employees Amanda Frlekin, Taylor Kalin, Aaron Gregoroff, Seth Dowling and Debra Speicher say the tech giant requires them to undergo the search every time they leave their respective stores to make sure they haven’t stolen any merchandise.
     The plaintiffs say that typically are subject to these searches twice a day — when they break for lunch and at the end of their shifts — and that in addition to the time it takes to be searched, the policy is also demeaning.
     Several store employees emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook in 2012, writing that mangers were “required to treat ‘valued’ employees as criminals.”
     On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted the plaintiffs’ motion to certify a potential class of more than 12,000 current and former employees.
     The decision is something of an about-face for Alsup, who dismissed most of the plaintiff’s claims after the Supreme Court ruled, in Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, that security screenings are not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
     His decision voided state law claims in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio, but California claims remained.
     Apple has argued since that the lawsuit was filed in July 2013, that it should not be granted class action status because not all store managers conducted the bag searches, and that those who did, performed them so quickly that compensation was not necessary.
     The class Judge Alsup certified includes all employees who’ve worked at California Apple stores since July 25, 2009, and said that the policy will be litigated on a “class-wide basis.”
     “With respect to those employees who wish to also litigate special needs for a bag at work, the class notice will invite them to intervene (or opt out if they prefer),” Alsup wrote, but, he added, “We should not let the few exceptions prevent litigation of the general rule.”
     “To be specific, the class notice would advise that the case will be litigated on a class-wide basis, in which bag searches will be adjudicated as compensable or not based on the most common scenario, that is, an employee who voluntarily brought a bag to work purely for personal convenience.”
     Alsup said he based this approach on the assumption that the majority of Apple employees bringing bags to work are not doing so out a special-need. He said if his assumption proves to be wrong and there are scores of motions to intervene by special-needs individuals, “making the entire process unmanageable, we will entertain a motion to decertify the class proceeding.”
     Alsup also noted that in the event Apple loses on the merits of the case, it will be necessary to litigate the issue of who actually stood in line and for how long – a complicated matter.
     “If Apple loses on the main issue, then the absence of good records to document the compensable time involved would be Apple’s fault, meaning its own fault for failing to keep adequate records,” the judge wrote. “Apple should not be allowed to prevent class certification due to a record-keeping problem of its own making.”
     The plaintiffs are represented by Lonnie Blanchard of Los Angeles.
     A representative of Apple declined to comment.

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