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Apple Gets Sued for Not Paying Retail Employees


You would never think of not paying your employees. Aside from knowing it’s illegal, it’s also just immoral. You stay on top of wage and labor laws, and know who is supposed to be paid what. One thing you know is that employees need to be paid for every hour that they work.

Except, what is work? That seems like a silly question, but it is not—in fact, it is a question that tech giant Apple didn’t know, which led to it being sued. Your business may be able to learn from the lawsuit brought against Apple by its employees.

Apple’s Check Out Policy

Apple retail employees, of course, have their hands on, and are in close proximity to very valuable, high tech equipment—equipment that can easily be stolen by those employees. To avoid this from happening, Apple required employees to “check out” before leaving work after their work shift ended. This was essentially a bag check, to ensure nothing was being stolen.

The problem is that this bag check could take between 30 minutes to an hour. But Apple wasn’t paying the employees for this wait and check out time—Apple didn’t consider this time to be “working.”

Apple employees did—and they wanted to be paid for that time. When they weren’t paid, the employees sued Apple for unpaid wages, for having to wait, unpaid, to leave work.

Apple’s Position

Apple contended that if an employee didn’t bring a purse or a bag, the employee wouldn’t have to check out—thus, the employee’s choice to bring one to work was voluntary, meaning that Apple wasn’t actually “requiring” all employees to check out.

The employees—and ultimately, the court—disagreed, saying that it was reasonable and expected that employees would bring bags or purses to work, and expecting otherwise was unreasonable. The employees one, and Apple ended the check out policy in 2015.

Paying for All Hours

The lesson here for businesses is that so long as you are dictating your employees’ time—even if they aren’t doing what you would consider to be “working,” or doing a part of their job—the employees must be paid.

The issue is control—do you control what your employee does or where he or she goes? If so, the employee must be paid.

This often happens in lunch break or rest break situations. The employee is at lunch, but you, as the employer, is telling the employee that he or she must stay available by phone or text, or you are texting the employee instructions or questions during her break and expecting responses.

If you are expecting that employee to be responsive to you, the lunch break isn’t really a lunch break—it’s work time that the employee must be paid for.

This is how many businesses get in trouble–they aren’t purposely cheating employees out of wages. They just don’t realize that they are making the employee “work” by doing procedural things (like checking out of work), and not paying the employees for that time.

Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help with your employment law questions.




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