Apple could be held liable for $60 million in backpay for having employees be searched on their own time after they clock out.

Up to 12,000 Apple retail workers in California are seeking compensation in Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks money for uncompensated time spent waiting for exit searches required by Apple’s ‘package and bag search policy’. The policy requires employees to clock out before undergoing mandatory searches to avoid theft. After clocking out, the searches then take five to forty-five additional minutes.

Initially the Frlekin federal trial court ruled in Apple’s favor, dismissing the case. However, the federal court of appeals reversed this decision and instructed the trial court to rule in the employees’ favor as Apple’s defense had no merit, handing the employees a huge win. For this, federal court of appeals relied on California state law and ruled that, because Apple employees are still under Apple’s control during the searches, the employees must be paid for their time. This could make Apple liable for up to $60,000,000 in back compensation.

But this ruling will likely have larger effects in California beyond exit searches. In the context of COVID-19, California has adopted Emergency Temporary Standards to tell employers how to deal with the pandemic. How employees are dealt with from a safety standpoint is central and could involve similar compensation issues.
More to come on that soon!