Ex-Employee Settles Lawsuit, But Still Bitter

May 20, 2010

“Thanks Apple, for ruining my life.” That’s the message from former Apple Genius Kenyon Zahner, who spent eight months working at The Galleria (Fort Lauderdale, FL) retail store, and who is now unemployed, living separately from his wife in Costa Rica, suffering from high blood pressure, and unable to bring his 18 month-old son or his wife back to the United States to live. This low point in Zahner’s life follows a lawsuit he filed against Apple for unpaid overtime pay, settled last December for just $3,500, of which $2,300 went to his attorney. Now Zahner is looking for some measure of extra-legal revenge against the employees at the store who he claims forced Geniuses to routinely work “off the clock,” denying them legally-required overtime pay. He also claims the employees trumped-up reasons to fire him after he complained of the practice. In the lawsuit, Apple’s attorneys denied there was any pressure to work unpaid overtime, and said Zahner had not presented any proof he was owed money. Yet, in the settlement agreement revealed here for the first time, the company ended up paying Zahner and swearing him to secrecy about the deal.

Interviewed by e-mail in Costa Rica, Zahner feels exploited by The Galleria store’s assistant manager, and he’s willing to name names. Why?

“The short answer is that I and the rest of the Genius Team were exploited by the assistant manager (AM),” Zahner says, giving that person’s name. IFO has chosen not to publish the assistant manager’s name, since he/she was not named in Zahner’s lawsuit. “When I made this known (to Apple), I was summarily terminated after a case was ‘created’ against me.” He notes that a Google search of his name now fills 15 pages, all related to his lawsuit, and that at least one prospective employer didn’t hire him because of those listings.

New Job

According to Zahner, he graduated from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and then worked as an editor at WRET-TV (Charlotte), which was owned by Ted Turner prior to his founding of CNN in 1980. Zahner later moved to a similar position at the CNN Bureau in Los Angeles, and then transitioned to a 23-year career in the motion picture and television production industry, and computer consulting and software development.

He moved to Costa Rica, where he met and married his wife in 2005. Two years later they had a son. “We wanted to relocate back to the U.S.,” Zahner says, and so he moved alone back to Ft. Lauderdale to earn enough to bring his wife and son to the United States. He worked on the Geek Squad for Best Buy before being offered a Genius job at The Galleria Apple store in Oct. 2008.

“By anyone’s account I would be considered an ideal employee,” Zahner says. “I was never late or sick. I helped thousands of customers at the Genius Bar with an almost perfect NPS score of 100 percent.”

The term “NPS” stands for “Net Promoter Score,” and is based on the survey responses of customers to the question, “Would you recommend the Apple store to a friend?” Apple’s overall NPS score for its retail stores is 78 percent, a very high score among the seven industries surveyed by the company Satmetrix during 2009.

“I always gave over 110 percent in all my interactions with customers and fellow employees,” Zahner says.

When he was hired, The Galleria location was short-staffed, Zahner says, but he always expected that additional Genius positions would be filled soon. “I quickly learned that this understaffing had been going on for a number of months,” Zahner says.

His typical work schedule at the Genius Bar was from 12:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with an hour off for lunch. The work of assisting customers began immediately when he arrived for work, he recalls, and didn’t stop when the store closed at 9 p.m.

“We always had standbys for iPhone repairs and sometimes computers,” Zahner says. “I never refused service to anyone. I was almost always multitasking, working with two, and sometimes three to four, customers at once while still maintaining almost 100 percent customer satisfaction.”

The Genius Bar’s routinely-busy workload was made even busier through the actions of the assistant manager (AM), one of three at the store. Zahner says the AM always gave female customers special attention: when a woman would come into the store without a reservation for a product problem, “(AM) would steer her over to the Genius Bar and make sure the woman received immediate attention,” Zahner says. “He/she continually wanted to be the center of attention,” what Zahner calls a “frustrated actor.”

“He/she managed by power and fear.” — Zahner

He describes the AM as a “flake” who made sure everyone knew he/she was “the boss.” After the original manager moved to another store, the AM implied to Zahner that he/she was the new manager. “He treated me and most other employees as if we were just out of high school,” Zahner says. “He/she managed by power and fear.”

The AM pressured all the Genius Bar employees to sell MobileMe, Zahner says. “In the big picture, I believe he/she was only trying to make his productivity numbers look good to attempt to advance within the company.” Sales of Apple Care, MobileMe and other add-on products are used to create an “attachment” rating that is used as one element of personnel and store evaluations.

Zahner recalls the hectic pace of work. “If we were lucky at the Genius Bar, we would be finished will all the customers by 9:10 to 9:20,” Zahner says. At that point, Zahner and another Genius had to clean up and organize the workspace, replenish printer paper and secure replacement inventory. They also had to organize, sort and file the daily paperwork for the day’s work, complete final daily reports and e-mail the results. Lastly, they had to clean up and organize the Genius Room in the back-of-house.

On top of all this, “We were also supposed to check our company email, stay current on the latest company policies, technology changes/updates and any procedural changes,” Zahner says. “With many times only 10 minutes or less left during my assigned shift, it was humanly impossible to accomplish this workload without working off the clock, which was encouraged by immediate management,” he claims.

Off the Clock

State and federal labor laws require employers to pay employees for all their job-related work time, and to pay employees extra for work beyond 40 hours in a work week. Requiring, encouraging or otherwise making a practice of working without pay, or “off the clock,” is illegal, since it avoids paying overtime pay, which is required by federal regulations to be one and one-half times the employee’s usual rate.

Employers might use the off the clock practice to reduce the amount of wages they pay. They would also benefit from not having to pay additional benefits, such as unemployment and medical insurance fees, and Social Security contributions.

Determining what is “job-related” work is sometimes difficult. Preparation for the job, such as putting on uniforms or special equipment, is legally considered to be part of work time. Likewise, end-of-shift activities can also be considered work time, such as clean-up, equipment shut-down or work hand-off to the on-coming shift. Work for a company away from the workplace can also be considered work time in some situations.

Zahner claims, “It was understood and encouraged by my fellow team members and Lead Genius to work off the clock to get our expected work done.” He says that the Lead Genius was constantly working off the clock, “even working from home on his days-off to send e-mail correspondence and make our new schedules.”

The work situation was complicated by the lack of a store manager right after Zahner was hired. When he encountered this pressurized work environment, “I had no one to speak to about working off the clock above the manager” for about a month until a new store manager was hired in Nov. 2008. Zahner names the new manager, but again, IFO is not naming that person because he/she is not named in the lawsuit Zahner filed.

At first the new store manager was sympathetic to the burdensome workload at the Genius Bar, Zahner says. “But (he/she) soon sided with the assistant manager and a case was quickly made against me to support termination.”

The manager had come to Apple from a non-tech career path—the person had worked in management positions at Williams-Sonoma, L’Oreal, Gap Inc., Chanel and Benetton. Apple frequently hires store managers who have not previously worked in an Apple store, various sources say, and who have no specific technology experience.

After the manager was hired, additional Genius positions were filled, Zahner acknowledges, “But we were still understaffed.”

“It was a very negative environment.” — Zahner

Zahner admits that he never contacted anyone above the store manager about the overtime issue, including the company’s Human Relations department. “It was a very negative environment,” Zahner explains. “Everyone seemed scared of the AM. Because I was relatively new to Apple and there was no one else above (the AM) at the time, I waited for (the new manager) to come in as store manager.”

“I don’t like to cause problems for other people,” Zahner explains, “and always give people the benefit of doubt. In the situation at that time I did not feel it would be in anyone’s best interest to go to Ron (Johnson, Sr. V-P Retail) or anyone else. I waited to see what (the new manager) would do, which maybe was a mistake on my part.”

Zahner says his termination was sealed by planned, two-day downtime for the chain’s computer system in May 2009. All transactions had to be recorded manually during the outage, and then hand-entered into the system when it came back up. “It took most of the next week to sort out all the errors everyone had made, and create and correct the paperwork from this downtime,” Zahner says. “These errors were used as the final piece in the case against me for termination.”

Zahner believes that a co-worker changed some of the customer documentation to create errors that were then used to justify his termination, and he claims that other co-workers witnessed those changes being made.

During all this, his e-mails to the store manager about his situation went unanswered.

The FLSA prohibits firing or discriminating against an employee who files a wage complaint or a lawsuit. However, in Zahner’s case, he was fired before he made a formal complaint about the overtime practice at the Apple store.

“In my opinion, this working off the clock situation did not need to occur,” Zahner. “Apple had and still has no financial problems that would require exploitation of its employees.”

The extreme workload at the Galleria Genius Bar was obvious to everyone at the store, Zahner says, but apparently not to the manager or team leader. “It could have been easily corrected by simply adjusting our schedules, hiring more Geniuses, limiting or eliminating standbys and other means but there was no desire to do so,” Zahner says.

“I do not blame Apple as a company,” Zahner says, contradicting some of his other statements. He describes himself as one of the original Mac “addicts,” having purchased an original Macintosh three weeks after the computer first went on sale in 1984. “I have personally owned almost every make and model Mac, even a couple of clones,” he says.

When his termination became inevitable, Zahner says he began looking for other jobs, “but given the economic conditions at the time, it was nearly impossible to find another job quickly. I had no more money left, so I had to return to Costa Rica.”

He says the entire adventure was stressful, and his systolic blood pressure shot up to over 200 (normal is about 100-130). “I visited two different cardiologists but was unable to successfully control my blood pressure with medication,” he says. “I have probably suffered permanent heart damage as a result.”

He blames the medical issues on stress in the workplace. “I was concerned about losing my job and providing for my family,” Zahner says. The U.S. economy was tanking and he didn’t see many other job opportunities. “Had the economy been better, I probably would have resigned,” he says.

Zahner had used his life savings to relocate to back to Florida for the Apple store job, so now life it tough. “My marriage is now in jeopardy—my wife and I are currently living separately,” Zahner says. “I may lose my house from being unemployed for over nine months now.” Unemployment in Costa Rica is above 20 percent, he says, so his prospects for a new job are slim.

More poignantly, Zahner say, “My son may never learn English as his native language.”

The Lawsuit

After he was fired, Zahner approached an attorney about the overtime pay situation. The attorney believed the “off the clock” situation might be affecting many other Apple employees and potentially involve millions of dollars. The attorney agreed to tackle the case on a contingency basis, taking his fee from any damages the court might order Apple to pay.

The complaint that Zahner’s attorney filed in the U.S. District Court in Aug. 2009 was just three pages long, and made its point quickly. “That during Plaintiff’s employment, Defendant required Plaintiff…and others similarly situated, to work in excess of forty (40) hours per work-week, and willfully refused to property compensate Plaintiff…for all such work pursuant to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).” [Download a collection of the lawsuit court documents.]

The lawsuit noted that Zahner’s work records were in Apple’s possession, and therefore Zahner could not calculate the exact amount of overtime that he was due.

Apple denied all the allegations in a filing with the court, saying no other employees were “similarly situated,” but admitting that it did possess Zahner’s work records.

The class-action nature of the lawsuit soon evaporated, and by Sept. 2009 Zahner’s attorney submitted an estimate of his client’s unpaid overtime pay—a total of two hours per week for “6.5 months,” or what the lawsuit says is 28 weeks. At Zahner’s $16 an hour wage rate (or $24 per hour for overtime), the lawsuit asked for $1,344.

Apple filed an answer to Zahner’s claim 56 hours of unpaid overtime, saying, “Apple disagrees that Plaintiff is due any overtime wages at all.”

The company said that it has “well established policies and procedures in order to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.” All employees must report all hours worked, the company said in the filing, including overtime. “In addition, Apple has a longstanding policy prohibiting employees from working when they are not on the clock.”

The company added, “Apple’s policies and procedures are in place and well distributed to ensure that all employees are paid for all of their hours worked,” the filing states, and said it “often” sends time and attendance reminders to employees restating these work policies.

In fact, federal Department of Labor regulations require covered employers to post notices in a “conspicuous place,” setting out the regulations pertaining to the minimum wage, child labor laws and overtime pay rate.

Lastly, Apple’s answer to the lawsuit said that Zahner had produced no evidence to support his claim of damages, and no evidence to support that Apple had violated the FLSA.

Agreement Revealed

Within three months, the attorneys for both sides had agreed to negotiate a settlement. They filed a formal notice to the court of the settlement on Nov. 18, 2009. Within a month the attorneys had crafted an agreement (pdf) that would pay Zahner damages and his attorney’s fees.

The final Zahner–Apple agreement provides a rare view of a usually-secret document. It also demonstrates the extent to which a defendant in a civil lawsuit attempts to cover all past and future possibilities, all while not admitting wrongdoing or guilt.

The agreement appears to have been crafted by attorneys at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Apple’s outside attorneys in Florida. The agreement was then forwarded to Zahner and his attorney for signing. A copy of the final, signed agreement was filed electronically with the federal District Court by an associate attorney for Apple’s law firm on Dec. 28, 2009, along with a formal request for the assigned judge to approve the settlement and dismiss Zahner’s lawsuit.

The federal court system’s electronic document filing system is called PACER. Documents posted on PACER are available for viewing and download by any registered user, and are considered “public.” The agreement was downloaded as a PDF file from PACER for this story, and at this moment remains publicly posted on the PACER Web site.

Lawsuit agreements are routinely kept confidential, but it’s not clear why this one was filed by Apple’s own attorney without being flagged for privacy.

Attorneys for both Apple and Zahner did not respond to e-mail requests for comment on the lawsuit or the settlement agreement.

No Guilt, No Liability

The six-page agreement (pdf) that Zahner signed is very comprehensive. It covers Apple’s payment of $3,500, future employment, criticism of the company, release of liability, use of lawsuit information, confidentiality, non-admission of law violations, and various legal stipulations. The agreement was signed by Zahner on Dec. 13, 2009, and by Apple’s Director of Employment Law, Deborah Rice, five days later.

Among the notable provisions of the agreement is that Apple denied all of the original lawsuit’s allegations and any liability.

The agreement set out the mundane topic of how the payments would be made, saying they would be delivered to Zahner’s attorney as three separate checks. Apple would submit an IRS W-2 tax form for $600 of the payments paid as income, and a Form 1099 for the $600 reported as damages. Zahner was obligated to submit a Form W-9 to Apple reporting his Social Security number.

The dual $600 payments may originate from the FLSA regulations, which allow lawsuits for back pay, and an equal amount for so-called “liquidated damages.” The FLSA also allows attorney’s fees and court costs.

Had Zahner made a formal Department of Labor complaint, and had that complaint been sustained as willful, the violation could have brought a fine of up to $10,000 against Apple.

The agreement continues, “Apple Inc. will not be obligated to employe Zahner under any circumstance.”

Pointedly, Zahner agreed not to “criticize, denigrate, or disparage the Company regarding conduct that occurred in regards to this lawsuit.” Zahner justifies his now-public accusations and that condition by saying, “I believe that the clause is subject to broad interpretation.” He adds, “Apple may try to retaliate legally but it will be difficult for them to do anything to me here in Costa Rica.”

A very long paragraph sets out that Zahner released Apple from any liability and claims related to a long list of Florida and federal regulations and laws related to labor, wages, whistle-blowing, retirement and even the Florida State Constitution.

Another long paragraph states that Zahner agreed to keep the settlement negotiation, terms, amount and even the existence of the agreement “completely confidential,” except to his attorneys and immediate family members. If asked about the lawsuit, Zahner agreed “to simply state that the claim was resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.”

Lastly, the agreement notes that if Zahner breaches any section of the agreement, “Defendant will be entitled to a return of the monetary consideration provided for in this agreement, as well as any further relief the court deems appropriate.” Again, Zahner believes his residency in Costa Rica offers him some protection from this condition.

Now What?

Was it worth it to sue Apple? Zahner explains, “The damage had already been done to me personally and physically and I really did not have to do anything with the actual legal proceedings—so why not?”

He sums up his experience by saying, “I am not a vindictive person. I think for whatever reasons, circumstances and timing created the situation I found myself in with Apple.”

As for the employees who he blames back at the Galleria Apple store. “It will be interesting to see what happens—if anything—to (them) as a result of my information. I believe it ‘all comes out in the wash.'”

“Oh—I almost forgot. On a positive note, I did get quite a few T-shirts,” Zahner says in an e-mail that came from the Web address: appleruinedmylife@xxxx.com.

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Anon E Mouse May 20, 2010 at 0418

I got fired from Apple as well, also on trumped up charges. My family and I considered suing, but decided against it. Looks like I made the right choice.

Apple Burlington May 20, 2010 at 0443

Sounds like a normal thing, the apple store in Xxxxxxxxx has some awful and “short” managers too

Thomcarl May 20, 2010 at 0725

I worked for Apple in the mid 90’s before the return of the STEVE, in their service repair group as an electronics Tech. at that time there were two classes of employes, Apples permanent employes and temps. Permanents were treated like kings and queens, temps like serfs. Sounds like not much has changed. Kiss enough butt as a temp. and get hired as a permanent, failing that your days are numbered. If someone asked me today for my advise as to taking a job with Apple as a temp. I would tell them no way in hell, temps have no benefits, get low pay, and there is only a 30% chance of getting hired, in short a high tech sweat shop. My time with Apple was good, as I was hire as a permanent employe, but Apple screwed us in the long run when they sold us to an ultra cheap company called SCI the biggest bunch of a holes in the country but thats another story, 70% of the technical staff quit over that one (30% cut in pay) and the plant has since been closed.

Jojo May 20, 2010 at 0735

Typical retail operation run by typical retail idiots. I have interviewed several times with a local Apple store and have been turned down every time because I do not fit the typical retail profile. I have an opinion and retail stores do not want you to have an opinion. During the interview process I was asked if they had quota’s and the response was that we have goals.

I also find that many of the employees really do not know much about anything. One day while in the Bellevue, WA store I was asked by the assistant manager to explain a technical issue with a prospective customer. Go figure.

mathue May 20, 2010 at 0744

One word folks, RETAIL.

Retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is retail is rEtAiL.

It really doesn’t matter if it’s Apple, Microsoft or any name you care to put forth. Retail is JUST like this, EVERYWHERE.

End of story.

prtgee May 20, 2010 at 0749

The manager at the xxxxxxxxx store in Xxxxxxxx Ohio is a prick also

Anon E Mouse May 20, 2010 at 0824

To all former Apple store employees,

You can use your apple knowledge post-Apple and get some amazing pay while looking for your next job. Try becoming a consultant. My parents have non-technical friends who have questions about how to set up a wireless network, e-mail accounts, install snow leopard, set up their harddrive or even recommend products and software and they will pay me $40.00 an hour to come to their house and show them what to do. Especially if they didn’t buy one to one and they want some help. (Note: I was not a Genius or Creative- those positions might have guidelines on what you can do post-employment)
I also started jailbreaking phones for friends who are too scared to do it themselves, or restore the phone, update the software, and re-jailbreak it.
Apple has a consultants network, and I’m thinking of becoming a home/small business consultant. If a consultant comes into your store, develop a friendly relationship and keep their business card in case Apple screws you over, someone can show you how to put skills to work.

I think employees really need to e-mail HR a lot more. Report everything that bothers you to HR, so if you do get fired, there is a record of complaints and you don’t seem like just another employee blaming the manager. A lot of us get into that comradere spirit and it isn’t till were kicked out do we realize how bad we’ve been screwed.

lucas May 20, 2010 at 0932

i can’t really side with this guy for one reason. He had someone to talk to (the HR department) and he didn’t. He admits this. He admits that he didn’t nothing until after he was fired for trumped up errors created by a co-worker that he had no evidence to prove they took place. And then he got indignant.

Maybe the store was a mess and maybe this assistant manager was a sexist prick etc, but when you don’t speak up at the time it is hard to really prove that anything was going on rather than the equally possible, you screwed up and got fired for it and now you want to stick it to the company and used every emotional weapon in your arsenal to get lots of pity, etc.

I mean I don’t see the suits and complaints by all the other folks that knew what was going on. That would certainly add some strength to his case.

Joe May 20, 2010 at 1130

Why are you giving this guy any press at all – much less a long piece presenting his story?

He provided NO evidence that anything illegal happened. None. No one was able to back up his story. Apple denies it and claims that they have his work records as evidence.

To make it even more ridiculous, the guy is whining endlessly that he had to work hard and often had several things to do at a time. Sorry, pal, but multitasking is the norm in most businesses-particularly retail.

Then the guy blatantly ignores the agreement with Apple by turning the agreement over to the press. He was willing to take their money, but doesn’t want to live up to his obligations.

My favorite is the part where the story somehow implies that it’s Apple’s fault that he can’t bring his wife and child to the US. Sorry, but we have immigration laws. If he can’t follow them, that’s not Applels (or anyone else’s) fault.

I won’t even get into the shyster attorney. Approaching a person to try to fabricate a class action suit against Apple (or anyone) is despicable, unethical, and possibly illegal.

People Against Joe May 20, 2010 at 2342

Joe,

Apple did nothing wrong, yet, Apple decided to settle and try to seal the court documents forever? If Apple did nothing wrong, why not fight it all the way? It’s not black or white Joe. There’s some gray area here. Just because “Apple denies it” doesn’t mean they did nothing wrong? Kinda like the way BP denies that the Gulf Oil leak is a serious problem, yet they don’t want any non-BP engineers to inspect the leak?

In this case, there probably is fault on both sides…..but more so on Apple because they took advantage of so many people. Lots of people non-exempt employees are being forced to bring home work. They just don’t complain because they know they’ll get into trouble and lose their job. Why do you think so many people are leaving Apple Retail?

Joe May 21, 2010 at 0409

” If Apple did nothing wrong, why not fight it all the way? ”

That’s a silly argument. The answer, of course, is that it would cost well into 6 figures to defend this type of silly charge. The guy was willing to go away for $3,500, so why should Apple pay 100 times that?

If you think your logic has any merit, you could turn it around. If the guy (and his attorney) thought he had a case, why did they settle for $3,500 instead of presenting it to a jury and maybe winning millions? After all, his attorney was working on contingency, so it wasn’t costing him anything. His attorney clearly told him to take what he could get and drop it.

People Against Joe May 22, 2010 at 1024

Joe,

You’ve proven my point. There is gray area in the matter. It’s not about Black and White reasoning. Lots of different issues in play. Your initial post seemed to diminish that fact and show your closed mindedness.

Thank you!

Gary May 22, 2010 at 0359

As for why Zahner got any press at all—pay, overtime and lawsuits are all legitimate issues, and Zahner’s lawsuit made it news. As for this story in particular, Zahner framed the story as a personal experience that has affected his health, finances and family. It’s up to the reader to decide if he’s genuine, and hopefully the length of the story allows readers to make up their mind.

Joe Snuffy May 20, 2010 at 1136

Mr. Mouse is going too cheaply. Typical consulting fees at the customer’s site run from about $80 to $120 per hour. Try getting the Geek Squad out to your house for less than $200 on anything… on Apple stuff, you’re getting an Apple Rookie and have to pay for their training time.

For corporate customers, $125-150 per hour is more reasonable. The time you’ll save them will FAR outweigh any costs for which they’re paying you.

In consulting, you do get what you pay for, so if you charge $30-40 per hour, you’re going to attract a lot of people who are going to break your balls on everything. Move up and you become an expert, but you’ll have to deliver.

Former Business Partner May 20, 2010 at 1526

Apple got off easy on this one. The settlement is almost like slavery, depriving Mr. Zahner of his future rights and sealing the actions! Bravo Mr. Zahner for being brave enough to expose the bad things going on at Apple Retail! Apple gives off this image of caring about its’ people and customers. I know for a fact that Apple now cares more about driving numbers in order to satisfy the stock markets’ unrealistic expectations. Apple has to pretend to care about its’ customers while squeezing them for every dollar via attachments, etc. A portion of the Apple Credo is:

“We encourage open dialogue with our people and customers to share ideas about improving our stores, our processes, and our performance.”

Well, those who have tried to dialogue get fired. That’s what happened to me. I was discriminated against because years of walking on those hard granite floors caused my back to go out. I took a leave of absence and when I got back, I was immediately terminated because, “I chose to take time off ” during the Holiday Black Out period. Plus, the Store Manager at my store was abusive and power hungry and I would kiss his butt! And so many people who voice their opinions are silenced by termination. Now, I can see anyone who tries to bring action is also silenced through these crazy settlement agreements!

Absolutely awful, Apple Retail. Mr. Zahner, absolutely ballsy! Bravo!!!

Former Business Partner May 20, 2010 at 1528

Oops, I didn’t kiss his but. I DID NOT kiss my former SM butt and that’s what got me fired ultimately!!!

Joe Apple May 20, 2010 at 2100

What a bullshit story! You’re saying you took a leave, which must be approved before you can go, then were fired for taking an approved leave? I call bravo sierra!

By “not kissing butt” do you really mean that you were an asshole?

Former Business Partner May 20, 2010 at 2335

Joe Apple,

Wow, you sound just like that typical manager that everyone is complaining about in these comments. And, sometimes you don’t choose to take a leave. Illness usually chooses you! I didn’t say, “hey in two weeks my back is going to go out so can I take a leave of absence?” Also, nobody likes a kiss-ass. You seem to equate someone who doesn’t kiss ass as being an A-Hole. I’m pretty sure the rest of us disagree!

Keep on managing the way you do!

Joe Apple May 22, 2010 at 2004

You’ve added nothing to your argument. If you’re legitimately sick, require long term absence and are a full time employee, you cannot legally be disciplined in any way for being out. It’s simple labor law. You’re clearly not telling the whole story. And I don’t work for Apple.

Former Business Partner May 22, 2010 at 2102

Joe,

You’re right. I’m not clearly telling the whole story. That will be done in my local Superior Court, which is where my case is being heard. And Joe, I agree with you 100% in your last comment, especially about the labor law. That’s why I’m going to win my case! Thanks for the support!!!

And of course you don’t work for Apple. Posting on this website would mean you’re violating your employment with Apple, if you worked for Apple.

R. U. Kidding May 20, 2010 at 1921

As an Apple Retail employee, you are to report all time worked. You are not to work “off the clock.” But we will make you responsible for tasks requiring you work more than your scheduled 40 hours. But overtime is not permitted. If you have any problem with these policies, contact HR in writing so we can find a way to fire your lame ass.

I’ve seen it first hand. I quit in disgust. Working for Apple Retail is not working for Apple. Trust me.

Fmr. Creative May 21, 2010 at 0225

I was terminated for “time and attendance” a few years ago, but it was purely political because I was outspoken about bad management. The manager (still the manager there) is a poor one that does not have an ounce of leadership qualities, played favorites, was always hiding away in the office, completely out of touch with the staff, and only had power because of title and fear.

Since my termination, other dissenters were also terminated for “time and attendance”. These were the creme of the crop, quality, career-driven bunch of the group and they were removed in favor of employees who work there and know absolutely nothing. The current batch of employees are a joke. A handful of the original employees that are still there criticize the hostile environment in private.

I completely agree with R.U. Kddding. Working for Apple Retail is not working for Apple. I’ve considered attempts at returning many times, but I finally realized that however wonderful working for Apple may be or seem to be, I would only be returning to something that would make me incredibly unhappy.

Joe Apple May 22, 2010 at 2008

More bullshit. Either you accrued attendance points or you didn’t. Regardless of what else you may have done or not done, attendance is a “no-fault” policy. Gain the points, lose the job. If you didn’t gain the points, you could not have been fired for ‘time and attendance’. Tell us the specifics of your time and attendance infractions if you dare.

People Against Joe May 22, 2010 at 2105

Joe,

Why all the negativity. As Steve Jobs would say, “geez”!

And, you seem to know a lot about Apple policy. You sure you don’t currently work for Apple right now? You slam other various posters on this comments board and really seem like you drank the Kool – Aid. In fact, you really love Apple so much, I think you should work for them…..although your comments would probably be missed on this website since posting to this website would be against your Apple Employment Contract!

Hope you get that job at your local Apple Store. You would totally fit in with some of the managers!

Joe May 23, 2010 at 1407

You’re just religious fanatics who use the “why are you so angry” argument to defend their defenseless positions. Why don’t you address what I said in my post? What were the circumstances of your time and attendance related termination?

Genius May 21, 2010 at 0819

This is a long and rambling article, ifoApple. Hard to parse the relevant info from the situation.

As a current Genius, I share similar experience with the ex-employee in some areas. Often a Genius is scheduled to be in appointments from the start of their shift, all the way through the end, with little time to read email, catch up on policy and procedures, etc. Standbys and other customer service type appointments often stack up on top of your normal workload. Doing a closing shift is sometimes hard, because it means scrambling to finish the evening closing routine after a long day. And yes, some managers and ASMs are problematic (the Peter Principle is alive and well in Apple Retail).

What I can’t agree with is not being paid for overtime at Apple. The second I don my shirt and walk in to the store, I clock in. I don’t clock out until I leave the premises. If that includes overtime, I speak to the manager in charge, let them know I need more time to complete my tasks, and let them make the decision to either pay me overtime, or not and leave the tasks unfinished. Geniuses are not paid salary, so their use of the time clock system is what defines their hours. While the manager may complain and have difficulties with paying overtime, they can’t force you to use the time clock computer to clock out, then continue working.

Furthermore, if this ex-employee had regular difficulties with their job, Apple provides a lot of options to resolve it. HR has anonymous and confidential phone numbers and email contacts. If a store manager was not available due to personnel changes, a market leader, a region leader, or Ron Johnson himself are only an email or a phone call away. While there is no excuse for a bad working environment, there also is no excuse for not speaking up when lots of options are provided to address and hopefully resolve the situation.

Just Another Bitter Apple May 21, 2010 at 0956

Complaining is not always anonymous. I found out some of my e-mails were forwarded to management for them to take care of, so I can see why one wouldn’t want e-mail them about everything. An e-mail complaining about being coerced into working overtime without pay could just come back as an e-mail to management and staff reminding them they need to log in all hours, which doesn’t really address the issue that the manager might already be aware and not care. The only reason to e-mail HR is to leave a record of the incidents so its a lot harder to deny there was any wrongdoing.
I like the fact that in the agreement Apple forbids the employee from speaking, then has him say he doesn’t know of anyone else who also faced that problem. I can sympathize with the former employee- do you really want to go through a trial and have to deal with the Apple legal department for months? Maybe he just wanted to make his case heard so other employees in that situation would stand up for themselves too- a point that was completely lost when Apple sealed the record.

There are probably a lot of former employees who feel bitter about their experience and would really just like Apple to acknowledge that there might be some issues with a policy or a manager or a store and seriously investigate it. (That survey does nothing, our store got a very low score and all management said was “Don’t worry things will get better”) Instead we’re all just cast as “bad apples” (no pun intended), who couldn’t make the cut. Well if I had a supportive, responsive, and competent management team, perhaps I would still be working there.

Gary May 22, 2010 at 0407

I agree the story is long, especially for a tech Web site. But I felt that cutting anything would omit essential background details of the lawsuit, and that would reduce the account to just an insufficient rewording of the court documents.

sdfsdfd May 21, 2010 at 2305

As a former Apple employee, I can definitely say that their retail stores are definitely a hostile environment for employees who didn’t act completely brainwashed and didn’t put up with all the crap the management team left behind. Working at Apple was like working in a totalitarian regime. Dissenters would be punished severely. I voiced a complaint once to a manager who I felt would be understanding and reasonable but she eventually threw me under the bus and almost had me terminated. Ever since that incident they continued to look for excuses to terminate my employment. Other employees who have voiced concerned have faced similar treatment. The HR Helpline is also a joke, the people who worked at corporate HR were in cahoots with the managers at the store level and would never side with an employee. They were also incompetent, taking months to send me the appropriate documentation to file my taxes! Employees who chose to press on with their issues would suddenly find their employment terminated because they were late for a shift…six months ago! I learned my lesson and treaded the waters carefully, kept my mouth shut and forced myself to drink the kool-aid until I got a new job and voluntarily quit.

People Against Joe May 22, 2010 at 1030

sdfsdfd,

Remember a thing called, “Fearless Feedback”. Yep. There are lots of people who say that Mr. Zahner should have spoke up to HR or his managers. Well, people who have actually worked at Apple like myself and many people who are posting on this thread and sympathetic to Mr. Zahner’s cause, know that Fearless Feedback is more like, “Fearless Blowback”. Yeah, when Apple first started out(I was there) FF was in use. But after a few years, a Senior Manager even told me, “Yeah, we know how much we use that nowadays?”. She said that when it’s a small organization, that FF is possible but when it got beyond 100 stores, things changed. By speaking up, even though Apple encouraged that publicly, privately, Apple targeted those people. Only those in the most severe cases such as Sexual Harassment, were able to use FF to rectify a wrong.

Now, when you use FF, you are rectified as wrong and eventually encouraged to leave or terminated like Mr. Zahner!

who am I May 22, 2010 at 2130

i can relate to Mr. Zahner. I currently work in a retail store, and am disabled. Those staff who are not disabled, are promoted, given pay raises. Me, same position for more than seven years, and same rate of pay for past 2½ years. Was told by managers that Apple has no room for disabled employees, and that we are working there, at the pity and mercy of managers.

Gary Allen May 22, 2010 at 2151

I edited your comment to delete any reference to a specific store, to give you a second chance on identifying it.

Joe Apple May 23, 2010 at 1413

c’mon now, Gary, how can you allow a post like this? clearly thsi is a bullshit story – no manager in their right mind in any workplace would ever say such things, and if they did, there wouldn’t be posts here about it, there would be a huge lawsuit.

take this crap down!

Gary Allen May 23, 2010 at 1432

As is common with some of the stories I’ve posted here, the comments start out as real “comments,” but then transition more into specific and personal stories that threaten to accuse and criticize various stores and personnel. While a little of that might serve a purpose, a lot

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