The com­pa­ny broke Cal­i­for­ni­a’s labor laws, the state’s supreme court ruled.

2 min read

This sto­ry orig­i­nal­ly appeared on Endgad­get

Apple broke the law in Cal­i­for­nia by fail­ing to pay employ­ees while they wait­ed for manda­to­ry bag and iPhone search­es, the state’s supreme court has ruled. The fight began over six years ago, when Apple Store employ­ees sued the com­pa­ny, say­ing they were required to clock out before being searched for stolen mer­chan­dise or trade secrets. The work­ers felt they were still under Apple’s con­trol dur­ing that five to 20 minute process and should there­fore be com­pen­sat­ed. Apple in turn argued that the employ­ees could choose not to bring their bags or iPhones, thus avoid­ing a search in the first place.

Apple won an ear­li­er bat­tle in dis­trict court, but the case went to the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court on appeal. There, the judges ruled that Apple work­ers were “clear­ly under Apple’s con­trol while await­ing, and dur­ing, the exit search­es.”

The court dis­missed Apple’s argu­ment that bring­ing a bag to work was an employ­ee con­ve­nience that should­n’t be sub­ject to com­pen­sa­tion. It par­tic­u­lar­ly focused on the fact that Apple felt employ­ees did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need to bring their iPhones to work.

“The irony and incon­sis­ten­cy of Apple’s argu­ment must be not­ed,” the judges wrote. “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.” (In that state­ment, the court ref­er­enced a 2017 Tim Cook inter­view where he stat­ed that the iPhone was “so so inte­grat­ed and inte­gral to our lives, you would­n’t think about leav­ing home with­out it.”)

The court decid­ed that any lost employ­ee wages must be paid retroac­tive­ly back to July 25, 2009. The deci­sion could apply to over 12,400 work­ers, accord­ing to Bloomberg. The case has now been kicked back to the Ninth Cir­cuit appeals court to apply the rul­ing and decide on com­pen­sa­tion, which could run as high as $60 mil­lion, accord­ing to pre­vi­ous eval­u­a­tions. That court has also agreed to take on sim­i­lar claims by Con­verse and Nike employ­ees.

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