Apple Could Owe Millions for Off-the-Clock Employee Bag Searches in California

Thursday February 13, 2020 2:27 PM PST by Juli Clover

Apple broke California law when it failed to pay employees for time spent waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their shifts, the California Supreme Court ruled today. [PDF]

The unanimous court decision, shared today by Bloomberg Law and The Los Angeles Times, dates back to a class action lawsuit filed against Apple in 2013.


Employees at the time alleged that Apple subjected them to mandatory bag checks that were conducted off the clock, leaving them uncompensated for their time. At the trial level, Apple actually won the lawsuit when the court ruled that Apple employees chose to bring personal bags to work and dismissed the case, but the decision was appealed and brought to a higher court.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now handling the case, asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether California state law requires compensation, and the California Supreme Court ruled that the law does indeed dictate that employees be compensated while waiting for bag checks.

"Hours worked is defined as the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so," reads the court's opinion.

Based on the language of the control clause, Apple employees are entitled to compensation for the time during which they are subject to Apple's control. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, Sn. 11070, subd. 2(G).) Applying a strictly textual analysis, Apple employees are clearly under Apple's control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches. Apple controls its employees during this time in several ways. First, Apple requires its employees to comply with the bag-search policy under threat of discipline, up to and including termination. Second, Apple confines its employees to the premises as they wait for and undergo an exit search. Third, Apple compels its employees to perform specific and supervised tasks while awaiting and during the search. This includes locating a manager or security guard and waiting for that person to become available, unzipping and opening all bags and packages, moving around items within a bag or package, removing any personal Apple technology devices for inspection, and providing a personal technology card for device verification.

Apple requires all personal packages, bags, and Apple devices that belong to retail employees to be checked by a manager or security before an employee is allowed to leave the store for any reason, including breaks, lunch, and the end of shifts.

Employees are also required to clock out before submitting to an exit search, and have estimated that the time spent waiting and undergoing searches ranges from five to 20 minutes. On busy days, some employees have waited for up to 45 minutes waiting for a bag check.

Apple has argued that allowing employees to bring bags and devices to work is a convenience and has positioned the searches as a "benefit" because employees could prevent searches by not bringing personal items or could be banned from bringing personal items all together. The California Supreme Court says that such a ban would be "draconian" and that Apple's arguments that employee iPhones are a convenience are "at odds" with how the iPhone is described in marketing materials.

"Its characterization of the ‌iPhone‌ as unnecessary for its own employees is directly at odds with its description of the ‌iPhone‌ as an 'integrated and integral' part of the lives of everyone else," reads the ruling.

The decision made today is retroactive, and the case will now return to the court of appeals where federal judges will apply the California Supreme Court's interpretation of the law. Prior evaluation of the case suggested that Apple could have to pay as much as $60 million should it be required to offer employees back compensation for the time spent undergoing bag checks.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
A sensible verdict and absolutely asinine behavior on Apple’s part.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
That’s horrible behaviour by Apple. Absolutely offensive and degrading. I really hope they have to pay out huge for this!! Shame on you apple
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
imagine sitting at work for 45 minutes after you clock out because you brought your purse with you
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago


Just want to say I used to work at the 5th Ave store in New York, which had HUNDREDS of employees and one single bag checker, and I never waited more than a minute.

That math tells me the bag checker wasn't actually checking bags.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
The part about how they could simply force employees to not bring a bag at all is embarrassing
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
So no phones, no bags for feminine products, etc is the way Apple thinks it should be? Wow.

Imagine how badly they treat their Chinese workforce?
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker Claims New 13-inch MacBook Pro Coming as Soon as Next Month

Monday April 6, 2020 2:56 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple will announce a new 13-inch MacBook Pro in May with the codename J223, according to a rumor shared by YouTuber and leaker Jon Prosser. Note: it’s a refresh to the current 13” So the bigger 14” display upgrade is a big possibility— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 4, 2020 Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said Apple plans to release new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models with scissor keyboards ...

iOS 14 Could Offer Home Screen Widgets, Wallpaper Customizations

Saturday April 4, 2020 3:30 pm PDT by Frank McShan
iOS 14 could offer home screen widgets and wallpaper customizations for the first time, according to 9to5Mac and Twitter user DongleBookPro. Apple is reportedly working to implement widgets that can be moved freely around like icons on the iPhone and iPad homescreen for the very first time. The feature is reportedly codenamed "Avocado" and no other details are available. It was also...

Top Stories: Apple Leaks iPhone SE and AirTags, Apple Buys Dark Sky, and More

Saturday April 4, 2020 6:00 am PDT by MacRumors Staff
With the calendar rolling over to April this week, we yet again saw several leaks and rumors, most notably including Apple itself leaking some references to a pair of long-rumored products: a new budget iPhone SE and AirTags item trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Apple also acquired popular weather app Dark Sky, while Amazon's Prime Video app now allows...

Apple Music Was Second Biggest Global Music Streaming Service in 2019

Friday April 3, 2020 5:38 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Global online music streaming subscriptions were up 32 percent year-over-year in 2019, hitting 358 million subscribers, according to new estimates shared today by Counterpoint Research. Spotify was the market leader with a 31 percent share of total revenue and a 35 percent share of total paid subscriptions, while Apple Music earned the second place slot with a 24 percent share of total...

More References to Apple's Upcoming Low-Cost iPhone Appear Online

Monday April 6, 2020 4:38 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Further references to Apple's upcoming low-cost iPhone have appeared online, one on a Chinese e-commerce website and another on Verizon's smartphone trade-in page. Spotted by tech blog MySmartPrice, Chinese retailer JD.com has published a placeholder for Apple's so-called "iPhone 9" that includes a teaser image of a veiled smartphone, but other than that it lacks any particularly revealing...

The New York Times, IFTTT, Medium, and Other Apps Adopt Sign in With Apple Ahead of June 30 Deadline

Sunday April 5, 2020 7:08 pm PDT by Frank McShan
Apps with sign-in functionality, including The New York Times, IFTTT, Medium, and more, have continued to adopt Apple's secure Sign in with Apple feature ahead of a deadline of June 30. The deadline for these apps to support the feature was recently extended from April 30. Sign in with Apple, first introduced in iOS 13, allows users to create accounts for apps and websites using an Apple ID. ...

Apple Offers Employees Deep Discounts on HomePod, Beats Headphones and More

Friday April 3, 2020 11:14 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple is offering employees significant discounts on products that include the HomePod and Beats headphones, according to details on the deals shared by MacGeneration and 9to5Mac. Apple is said to be clearing stock of Beats headphones and HomePods, providing them to employees through an internal deals program. The HomePod is available at a 50 percent discount, dropping the price to $149.50,...

New Low-Cost 'iPhone SE' Could Launch as Soon as Tomorrow

Thursday April 2, 2020 4:06 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's new low-cost iPhone is set to launch as early as Friday, April 3, according to a new report from 9to5Mac that cites a tip from a "highly trusted reader." The site says that while it can't be certain about the launch date, "Apple could reveal and begin taking orders for the new iPhone as soon as tomorrow." The iPhone 8 Apple is said to be planning to call the new iPhone, which is...

EPIX Available for Free Through Apple TV Channels Until May 2, No Subscription Required

Saturday April 4, 2020 9:28 am PDT by Frank McShan
EPIX is currently offering free access to its catalog of movies and TV shows through the Apple TV Channels feature in the TV app, and many additional services are also offering extended free trials. Upon navigating to the Apple TV app, users will notice that EPIX is listed under the "My Channels" section. Rather than offering an extended trial where users must first sign up, EPIX is...

iPad Launched 10 Years Ago Today, App Developer Reflects on Getting Access to a Top-Secret Prototype

Friday April 3, 2020 10:53 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
On the 10th anniversary of the iPad launching in stores, Agile Partners co-founder Jack Ivers has shared an interesting story about how his company managed to get in Apple's good graces and ultimately gain access to prototype iPads. The story begins in 2008, when Agile Partners released GuitarToolkit as one of the first iPhone apps on the App Store. The app used the iPhone's microphone to...