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McLaughlin & Stern Defeats Apple, Inc. in Historic Class Action Decision

Wed 19 February 2020 News Releases

After almost 8-years of protracted litigation which has snaked itself through the Northern District of California Federal Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision and victory to a class of Apple retail store employees who were subject to uncompensated bag and technology searches. The Case is Frlekin v. Apple, Inc.

On February 13, 2020, The California Supreme Court held that Apple violated California law when it failed to pay employees for time they spend waiting for mandatory bag and iPhone searches at the end of their shifts.

The February 13th decision is the latest in the battle over pay for off-the-clock work and marks the California high court’s third wage and hour opinion in two years interpreting the state’s employee-protective wage requirements. Apple won at the trial level in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which said employees of the Cupertino, Calif., tech company chose to bring bags to work and thus subject themselves to the company’s search policy. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit turned to the state court to interpret California law.

Compensation turns on the issue of whether the employee is controlled by the employer. Apple workers “are clearly under Apple’s control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said.

“The exit searches burden Apple’s employees by preventing them from leaving the premises with their personal belongings until they undergo an exit search—a process that can take five to 20 minutes to complete—and by compelling them to take specific movements and actions during the search,” the unanimous court said.

“Under the circumstances of this case and the realities of ordinary, 21st-century life, we find far-fetched and untenable Apple’s claim that its bag-search policy can be justified as providing a benefit to its employees,” the court said.

The California Supreme Court “adhered to the text and purpose of the wage order, which is to protect California employees. And the control test, in particular, is meant to make more time compensable rather than less, so I think it’s a good day for California employees in general,” said co-counsel Kimberly Kralowec, principal with Kralowec Law P.C. The California class, which includes workers at stores from July 25, 2009, to present, at certification exceeded 12,400 workers.

A copy of the California Supreme Court decision can be found here.

If you are or were a retail store employee or other types of employee and were subject to security checks at your place of employment, please feel free to contact either Brett Gallaway or Lee Shalov to discuss your potential claims.

Amanda Frlekin et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. Apple Inc., Defendant and Respondent