SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Apple store employees are not entitled to pay for time spent having their bags checked by security after work, a federal judge ruled.
Lead plaintiff Amanda Frlekin sued the company in 2013, claiming Apple violated labor laws by not compensating employees for time spent undergoing theft-prevention bag screenings.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup certified a potential class of over 12,000 current and former California Apple employees in July, but after a hearing last week he granted Apple’s motion for summary judgment.
Alsup wrote in his ruling that in order to prevail on their claims the workers must prove two elements – first, that the employer restrains the employee’s action during the activity in question and second, that the employee has no plausible way to avoid the activity.
He said the employees meet the first element but not the second, since “the Apple worker can choose not to bring to work any bag or other items subject to the search rule.”
Alsup added that Apple could have imposed even stricter measures to prevent theft.
“Rather than prohibiting employees from bringing bags and personal Apple devices into the store altogether, 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,” he said.
The employee’s choice to bring such items is dispositive, Alsup said.
He rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that “under Apple’s proffered interpretation of control, an employer could establish a policy that required all employees who wore red hats to clean the bathrooms for free.”
“Not so,” Alsup said.
“The ability to bring a bag into Apple’s stores is simply an optional benefit with a string attached – the requirement to undergo searches.”
Although the plaintiffs contend that “the freedom to bring a bag to work is not an affirmative benefit, but rather a standard freedom of the job,” Alsup reemphasized that rather than implement stricter rules, “Apple took the lesser step of giving its employees the optional benefit of bringing such items to work.” (Italics in original.)
Furthermore, Alsup said the time employees spend having their bags searched and waiting to have them searched does not constitute “work” since the plaintiffs “merely passively endured the time it took for their managers or security guards to complete the peripheral activity of a search.”
Neither side’s lead counsel responded to emails requesting comment on Tuesday.
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