back to article Unexpected victory in bagging area: Apple must pay shop workers for time they spend waiting to get frisked

A three-judge panel in California has ruled [PDF] that Apple Store staffers should be paid for time spent waiting to undergo the iGiant's bag checks. It's the latest turn in a class action Apple has been battling for seven years, fending off retail workers that asked to be paid for up to 45 minutes spent at the end of their …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Don't Amazon operate a similar policy?

    If so, then this ruling must apply to them too.

    1. Jon 37

      Note this only applies to California. It's a California state law that's being used. So the scope is limited.

      US federal law doesn't give you the right to be paid for time being security searched. (You might think this is ridiculous; the US Supreme court thought so too and ruled that under the US federal minimum wage laws, people have to be paid for time being security searched. In response, the US politicians changed the law, specifically to allow employers to not pay for that time without breaking federal law. However, states can pass laws that set stricter requirements).

      1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Amazon has several huge facilities in CA to which it would apply. Of course, any worker who dares to mention it -- even in a 'private' chat group -- would likely be fired on the spot.

        1. Triggerfish

          Couldn't someone who doesn't work there file it on their behalf? Y'know just for shits and giggles.

          1. Sherrie Ludwig

            Reply Icon

            Couldn't someone who doesn't work there file it on their behalf? Y'know just for shits and giggles.

            It would be dismissed out of hand, because the plaintiff would not have "standing", i.e., be personally involved in the complaint.

      2. Wellyboot Silver badge

        >>>US politicians changed the law, specifically to allow employers to not pay for that time<<<

        Is being paid in company tokens still allowed in the US?

        1. Alumoi

          Mandatory is the word you're looking for.

  2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    While I do support Apple's right to require bag searches (otherwise it may be easy for a member of staff to leave with goods that are worth a lot, and with the best will in the world, people do nick stuff), if Apple are going to require bag searches, they *should* pay their staff for the extra time. If the searches are taking a long time, they need to investigate why and how to solve that, not just expect the staff to hang around for free..

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Absolutely correct. And I would wish to add that, if Apple demands that employees clock out before searches, then legally those employees have every right to walk away because they are no longer under Apple control.

      You can't have your cake and eat it. If you let your employees clock out, they are gone and you have no right to keep them there for anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If the employees are clocked out but physically prevented from leaving the premises (by the security staff) then isn't that unlawful imprisonment?

        1. Vometia Munro

          The same thought occurred to me, but I can see Apple would just blithely respond that they're free to leave at any time, just omitting the bit that they're also choosing to walk out of their job. Duress is also a thing, but whether or not any jurisdiction thinks it should care is another matter.

        2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

          Who knew that Hotel California was actually a prophecy about Apple stores in California? You can check out anytime you want, you just can't ever leave.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To add, after years of doing this song & dance, they should have at least enough info to review the process: how much value in $ was recovered/prevented by these searches? Vs. How much does it cost to keep paying employees to hang around for it?

      I'm guessing with Apple, they probably even have another metric like, how many suspected stolen items? Then you could do the analysis vs. how much ($) value was recovered during security searches, giving you a decent metric on how effective they actually are (since a real dedicated attacker will no doubt pick up on the commonly searched, & commonly glossed-over locations on a person or bag, and plan accordingly).

      Let's be real though, they're worried about stolen IP, not product. But I'm guessing someone somewhere in Apple has already figured out some numbers on that, so they could still do the cost analysis. If they think their IP is worth >$100 mil, and paying everybody for their extra time is $10 mil, then it's worth it for them to keep searching, just pay your damn employees.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You wouldn't find stolen IP with a physical search. Take a micro SD card, and a bespoke hollow coin (the cheap online ones will get spotted), and away you go, also because that defeats a metal detector.

        This is also assisted by the fact that people are rarely searched on their way IN..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just watch management suddenly find the time to search employees leaving almost immediately in the future.

      Their own KPI's and bonuses will depend on keeping the additional costs paid for employes to wait for them down to the bare minimum!

      It'll be an amazing turnaround from their current passive/aggressive attempts to stop employees bring bags in the first place.

    4. big_D Silver badge
      Holmes

      I wonder if the wheelbarrow and manure exploit would work... They check every day that the iPhone being taken out of the store is the employees. Only he has a different case every day.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @"While I do support Apple's right to require bag searches"

      If Apple do not trust their employees then why did they employ them?

      If it is true that Apple are employing untrustworthy people, presumably because they are cheaper than the trust worthy, then they should also accept the cost of having to frisk them on the way out.

      There is OFC an alternative to this employee abuse via simply providing security lockers for employees outside of the secure area. If the employee showers before and after work and moves naked between the secure and insecure areas then they need only ogle them as they pass and prevent company property being stuffed into orifices (during working hours/ also source of "rounded corners idea?).

      Since clearly apple want the pleasure of treating their employees as criminals they should have to pay for their perversions.

  3. First Light Bronze badge

    Good

    Happy that the employees are not going to be stuck around waiting. The stores will find a faster, more efficient way to search bags if they have to pay for the time.

    Currently about a third of theft in retail stores in the US is done by employees. I wonder if Apple has figured out what their in-house losses are. It would be useful to know that, but since Apple doesn't talk to the Reg, we may never know . . .

    1. tojb
      Big Brother

      Re: Good

      It seems that most of the theft is done *from* employees, by Apple.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Good

      I think you will find that the vast majority of theft is done by employers stealing from employees, like Apple in this case.

      1. parlei

        Re: Good

        This graphic may be correct (I have not checked the sources), but...

        http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/2018/09/wage-theft-vs-other-forms-of-theft-in-the-u-s/

    3. Vometia Munro

      Re: Good

      At various places I've worked the cleaners often got the blame, which was terribly sad because a more honest and conscientious bunch you wouldn't find. If valuables were left lying around they were tidied up and discreetly put out of obvious sight of potentially less-honest passers-by; the time I found one of them had been regularly using my desk phone out of hours I checked with the telecomms guy who went through the logs and said, well, yes, she has been making international calls but using some sort of pre-pay call-and-forward card so the cost to the company was zero.

      The various times stuff has gone missing has turned out to be either a particular kleptomaniac employee who'd nick anything that wasn't bolted down (the "I'll take this to the bank at lunchtime" US currency I'd left on my desk I can understand, the turntable out of the tea-room microwave left me scratching my head) or some chancer who'd walked in off the street and evaded the security guards. But whether it was the Saturday job at Sainsbury's in my teens or the high-tech place with lots of pocketable goodies, there's never been a spate of employees just nicking stuff because they can. Which isn't to say it doesn't happen, just (probably) not on such a scale to justify all this daft TSA-style arsing about. Especially not when the cost of alienating their staff is probably much greater.

      1. Timo

        Re: Good

        I'm not sure "alienating" is the look they're going for. It may be more about humiliating them in the effort to demonstrate who is the boss.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    No comment about back pay

    Apple should be required to pay current and past workers for time spent being searched. How much will be interesting since I doubt that records were kept, but the judgement contains "typically ranges from five to twenty minutes ... up to forty-five minutes" (page 7) - so, perhaps, 15 minutes for every day worked.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: No comment about back pay

      That would be a tidy sum per employee but still way less than the rounding error on Apples cash pile ($2.3Tn to the nearest 100 billion?), It'd also make them look good instead of money grabbing, and an apology woldn't go amiss either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No comment about back pay

        And it seems like it could be cheaper than this whole trial and appeal cycle once you add up all the legal fees. Honestly, companies (and people) sometimes seem to go out of their way to be shitty just for the sake of being shitty.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: No comment about back pay

          ...and sometimes they fighting against setting a precedent because that will cost them in the long run and likely be the thin end of the wedge when it comes to workers rights and benefits. That's what they really frightened of.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    This is all for nothing

    phones stolen during looting were easily tracked by Apple. Now if you talking about the $ .50 cables that they charge 30 bucks for, all companies budget for incidental loss through theft(employee or self-employed freelance thief) damage and subsequent replacement, showroom demos etc.

    Did this strip search at the end of each shift catch anyone trying to boost any goods? And if so, did they save more money than they spent on security?

    1. AVee

      Re: This is all for nothing

      Yes, they probably did save more money then they spend. Mostly because they didn't have to pay the employee's for their time and because of that didn't have the need to spend money on making those searches efficient.

      But that will probably change now, it'll be interesting to see if they keep these policies now that it actually costs them money. They might well go to spot checks for example.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: This is all for nothing

        I was talking about paying all people doing the checks, all the administration behind a draconian plan such as this. Not everybody at Apple is a salaried employee?

        Spot checks would have been the best route.

  6. Whitter
    Boffin

    the district court had "erred"

    What happens to those that err?

    Just curious.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Pirate

      Re: the district court had "erred"

      I can tell you what happens to those that Arr, if that helps.

      Soon they be sayin' Yarr! And then they's goes to sea to be pirates! And then they enjoys rum, treasure and a surprisingly good retirement and sickness benefits package. Although contact with the occasional psychopath who weaves burning matches into his beard also appears to be a serious risk of the profession.

    2. First Light Bronze badge

      Re: the district court had "erred"

      Nothing happens professionally, but judges don't like getting overturned so they will pay extra attention next time not to repeat the error.

    3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: the district court had "erred"

      > What happens to those that err?

      They remain human. Those that go "errrggggh" are zombies though.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: the district court had "erred"

        I thought zombies said, "BRAAAIIINNNZZZZ!"

        Bit like Welsh rugby players...

  7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Happens to all airport staff as well

    Anyone who works airside at an airport must wait to go through airport security both when arriving at work and when leaving. Some days the wait can be over 30 minutes. Yet they clock in only after going through security, and clock out before going through security. What's more, employees must assume worst-case holdup when arriving at work because otherwise a long security queue would mean they are marked as being late.

    ISTR similar decades-old case-law in the UK that concluded that time spent in a mandatory security check of workers must be paid, so maybe airport workers should look into the legitimacy of having to spend an extra unpaid hour or so a day. Though in that case the security check is a requirement of the airport (and government) rather than a requirement of the workers' employer, and takes place outside the employer's premises, so the law would not be directly applicable. So perhaps it would be the airport or government that should pay for the employees' time?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "airport or government that should pay"

      Gets my vote - if that also includes the time spent in customs / immigration queues!

    2. ridley

      Re: Happens to all airport staff as well

      No the employer is employing you knowing that you are required to go through security in order to attend work, they should pay for that time as a cost of doing business. Not the employees pay it as a cost of being employed.

    3. CrackedNoggin

      Re: Happens to all airport staff as well

      Those companies on the inside would put pressure on the airport to streamline security times for the employees, which they have a right to do as they are paying fees to operate at the airport.

  8. Nifty Bronze badge

    So sad, time was when you could smuggle a whole car out of your workplace via your lunch box.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      One piece at a time?

      1. keith_w Bronze badge

        One of my favorite songs by Johnny Cash

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18cW_yHo3PY

      2. Getmo

        I'm sure it still runs great once you get it all put back together.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      "Honey, take me for a spin."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not mine.

      We made sandwiches!

  9. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Around 20 years ago I used to work for a company that use to search the employees when leaving in the evening, and that could take 20 mins or so after you had already clocked out.

    But they still had a lot of stuff going missing because they failed to regulate who could send outgoing mail and so unscrupulous people would pop cables, software, RAM, CPUs etc into a jiffy bag addressed to their friends and family and send it down to the post room for dispatch.

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Gimp

    personal package

    No way am I going to work for a company who wants to search my "personal package" or my "back". In fact, if anyone insists on searching my "personal package", they can pay for the privilege!

    Oooer missus!

    1. Nifty Bronze badge

      Re: personal package

      A scene from 'Are you being served?' set in an Apple store flashed through my mind...

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. The Basis of everything is...
    FAIL

    Retailers distrust staff

    Many years ago I had the pleasure of working for a high street retailer, as a techie of course. One project involved creating a database to hold various store details including security systems. At the time I was surprised to find the majority of customer entrance tag scanners were actually fakes. All of the staff entrance tag scanners were live and usually had discreet CCTV too.

    They also spent a small fortune on a supposedly secret business intelligence system run outside of central IT (who of course knew all about it) used to spot losses. It was no surprise to find that it had feeds from the payroll, time sheet and till systems and wasn't concerned with your average shoplifter.

    It was the last time I ever worked in an end-user environment. I was approached a year later to return in a more senior role and the recruiter couldn't understand why I laughed so much before turning them down. A truly toxic working environment that I have thankfully never experienced since.

  13. John Doe 12

    PC World

    During my student years I worked for PC world and you were always searched when leaving the store - including if you just popped in on your day off to do some shopping. To be honest I didn't really mind and it only took a minute or so and was done in a private room away from the general public. During induction there was a staff training video staring Colin Tarrant aka Inspector Andrew Monroe from The Bill which basically was to tell you they knew all the tricks - like putting stolen goods into the shop dumpster to collect after hours :-D

    Then a year or so later I got my 1 year uni work placement in Vickers Defence Systems where they make Challenger tanks and you have to sign the official secrets act. Not once did I get searched leaving that place of work and in fact the local scumbags would break in and steal military hardware from the tanks which often some local person would find dumped and return to the gatehouse.

    The two of those jobs compared side-by-side and their differing security arrangements always amuse me to this very day.

    1. benjya

      Re: PC World

      Many many years ago I was doing a tour of BAE in Hatfield. There were signs up saying "No aircraft parts are to be taken out of the workshop". Brought up images of someone trying to take a plane wing out under their jacket...

    2. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: PC World

      A very long time ago I worked for a leading UK retailer and there was a strict protocol around what you could take in and out. Large bags needed to be left at the staff entrance and a token was provided to get it back. Females could take a small handbag but it could be subject to "checking" on entry or exit. You could also take some things in like books, (no phones then) lunch in a clear plastic bag (also provided).

      It generally worked pretty well and very occasionally there would be a random search at the end of the day of everyone right up to the General Manager. It was cursory and only took a little bit of time but because everything else was well organised and staff were trusted people just accepted it.

      That did not stop one person concocting a scheme of sending things by post or delivery as "gift no receipt". The strange thing is that when they were caught there were rooms full of all these packages, many still in the delivery packets.

  14. pintofbitter

    Like I have said before, what a horrible ******g company, I would sooner be homeless than work for them !

  15. T. F. M. Reader

    Locker rooms

    Apple's response seems to indicate that their main concern is employees' bags, and employees who don't bring bags to work are not searched. If so, wouldn't it be a lot more efficient/cheaper for Apple themselves to make sure there is a locker room for employees' bags so that every employee can walk in and out of the store without being searched, pick up their stuff, and leave?

  16. KBeee Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    Searches at work

    I worked at a place once where you were searched on the way in and all tools and equipment was listed, then searched again on the way out to check you weren't in possetion of any "extra" stuff. There was no secure place to keep your equipment on site, so it had to be brought in and removed each day.

    The search by the security guys was along the lines of "A spanner, another spanner, a screwdriver, another spanner, a pair of pliars, a screwdriver..." and took about an hour while my mate and myself looked on in disbelief.

    The job was supposed to last about 5 days, but after the first day when I'd informed my supervisor about this we were pulled from the site till a less onerous entry method was worked out.

  17. T. F. M. Reader

    Bootnote

    I seem to recall a lawsuit some 12-15 years ago, I think in an Indian call center of a similar place (not sure it it was a class action suit), where employees' TOT (Time on Task - see AMZN cookbook) was measured from the time they logged on to the application. The boot time of Windows machines was not counted, and with all the crap that was run via GPO or whatever it could take 10-15 minutes, so the employees had to arrive at work quite a bit earlier than their nominal starting time. IIRC, the lawsuit was successful.

    [Aside: at the time I myself was struggling with a Windows XP work-provided laptop - the boot definitely took many minutes. This was the reason why my colleagues and I were quite amused by the news of that lawsuit.]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bootnote

      HMRC used to do that in there call centers. Your shift started when you went ready. Clerical staff shifts started when they swiped in at the clock, at the door to the building. As the site had the longest single corridor in europe, that was considered taking the piss. Eventually the call center got have the same t&c that everyone else had.

      At one point they had managers running around with walkie talkies harassing staff over time doing stuff.

      And they were still better than fucking BT, who wanted you to put your hand up to go for a piss.

  18. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Criminal?

    The original complaint [PDF] had argued that Apple's policy was "demeaning" and "embarrassing" and made Apple staffers feel like they were being treated as "criminals".

    Well, working for a criminal organization, so it's close.

    After all, it's only Apple itself that is allowed to rob people blind.

  19. the Jim bloke Silver badge
    Devil

    obvious solution, already in place at Amazon

    Apple should use Amazon time management metrics for their security inspections, complete with arbitrary and unannounced target changes, and automatic dismissal of the lowest performing 5% of inspectors.

  20. TRT Silver badge

    One wonders if...

    with the tight security and bag searches in the court buildings, if the lawyers for Apple charged them for that time?

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