In response to complaints by Apple retail store employees in France, a government labor agency fined the company yesterday for making its employees work past the 9 p.m. store closing hour, and warned the company that it faces stiffer penalties for future violations. The ruling means store employees will leave work almost immediately, instead of continuing to work—sometimes until 11 p.m., according to employee complaints—to put the store in order or to complete Genius Bar tasks. Apple had argued before Le Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris that post-9 p.m. work wasn’t routine, and denied any violation of work rules. The situation may seem unusual to retail workers in the United States, who often work past closing time for various reasons, and who earn overtime for any work past 40 hours in a work week. However, many countries have work rules that prohibit overnight work except under extraordinary circumstances, or operating retail stores on Sundays. In this case, French law restricts work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. only for business operations, “to ensure continuity of economic activity or social utility.”In its ruling against Apple, the Tribunal said that Apple store employees cannot work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day. It levied a $13,000 judgement against the company for past violations, to be paid to the involved labor syndicates (unions). The agency warned that future violations would bring fines of $65,100 per infringement. The trade unions had proposed a fine of nearly $400,000.
Seven of Apple’s 15 stores are affected by the judgment, all within the jurisdiction of the Paris labor agency: Opéra, Parly 2, Carré Sénart, Val d’Europe, CAP 3000, Atlantis and Velizy 2. The latter store stays open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The overnight work restriction has been in effect for decades, but hasn’t been an issue until the last few years, when international retailers have opened more stores with longer hours to cater to more shoppers. The Tribunal has several other work rule hearings scheduled involving other retailers, including Sephora and Abercrombie & Fitch. Next month an Opéra employee’s complaint on night hours will be heard by the Tribunal.