Apple to Pay Store Workers $41 Million Settlement for Bag Checks That Occurred Off the Clock

Apple to Pay Store Workers $41 Million Settlement for Bag Checks That Occurred Off the Clock
Photo: Johannes Eisele / AFP, Getty Images

After years of fighting it out in court, Apple Store employees in California will finally get paid for the time the company spent checking their bags for possible stolen products while they were off the clock. The payout: roughly $US30 (A$41) million.

According to court documents filed in the Northern District of California on Friday, and reported by Bloomberg, a total of 14,683 current and former Apple Store employees who worked for the company from July of 2009 to December of 2015 could receive a part of the settlement, which must be approved by the district judge. The class action lawsuit covers the company’s 52 stores in California was filed in 2013 by two Apple Store employees.

The employees objected to the company’s mandatory policy of carrying out unpaid searches of their bags and Apple devices every time they left the store. The searches, which had to be carried out by a manager or security guard, in general averaged between five to 20 minutes, but stretched to up to 45 minutes on the busiest days. Failure to undergo these searches could have led to disciplinary action or termination.

Although Apple argued that anyone who didn’t like getting their bags or Apple products checked could choose not to bring them to work — which, speaking as a former clothing retail store employee, is very hard to do as bags often hold food, snacks, water, keys, and medicine, among others — it discontinued policy in December of 2015.

Gizmodo reached out to Apple for comment on the settlement but did not receive a response by the time of publication. We’ll make sure to update this blog if we do.

In court documents, lawyers for the Apple Store workers state that the average payout for employees is calculated based on the number of shifts and years they worked for Apple during the period covered by the lawsuit. The lawyers anticipate that the average payout per class member will be $US1,286 ($1,754).

The case went through many twists and turns. A judge sided with Apple’s request in 2015 to dismiss the lawsuit, but it was brought back from the dead by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020, as reported by the Courthouse News Service. The case even went before the California Supreme Court, which ultimately decided that employees should be paid for the time spent on bag searches.

In the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said it was ironic that Apple argued that employees could simply leave their phones at home if they didn’t want them checked as part of the unpaid searches.

“The irony and inconsistency of Apple’s argument must be noted,” she wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion on the case. “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.”