Lawsuit Claims Back Wages For Off-Duty Bag Checks

July 31, 2013

A duo of Apple retail employees has filed a lawsuit claiming they’re owed over $1,000 each for overtime they worked while being subjected to security bag-checks required of all employees when they go off duty. According to the complaint filed in a California federal court last week, Amanda Frlekin and Dean Pelle had to wait from five to 10 minutes in a line of other employees leaving work at the same time, after they had already clocked out for the day. As a result, they spent nearly 90 minutes each week performing work-related tasks, but were not compensated with overtime. The two employees also said the pay situation is applicable to all other Apple retail employees, and asked the court for class action status. Bag checks are a mandatory and routine procedure for Apple stores—and many other retailers. They are performed as one element of a comprehensive security program to prevent employee theft that also requires employees to declare all personal Apple products they bring to work each shift.

The lawsuit was filed July 25, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for Northern California by two New York state law firms and a California firm. It’s not clear how the plaintiffs working on separate coasts came to be involved with the three firms. The action mirrors lawsuits filed by employees against Polo Ralph Lauren in 2006 and Forever 21 last year. It also seems to have been prompted by a U.S. District Court ruling just last April that allows a similar security check case to go forward against Inc.

Frlekin worked almost three years as a Specialist at Century City (S. Calif.). Pelle was a Specialist at Lennox Mall (Atlanta) for one year, then did one year at the “Wellington Beach retail store in West Palm Beach, Florida” (probably Wellington Green, Wellington, Fla.). He then moved and worked four years at the West 14th Street (NYC) store.

Frlekin was paid from $12.10 to $15.60 per hour, the lawsuit notes, while Pelle was paid “approximately” $18.75 per hour.

Retail store employes clock in when they arrive at work using software developed by Kronos Inc., the lawsuit states. They then clock out when they go on a meal break or at the end of their shirt.

Both former employees they were required to undergo “uncompensated” personal package and bag searches when they left the store for meal breaks and at the end of shifts. “These security checks were significant, integral, indispensable, not a de minimis task or request and done solely for Apple’s benefit to prevent employee pilferage,” the lawsuit states.

Most importantly, “A large number of Specialists and Managers leave for lunch at the same time and/or end their shift at the same time,” the lawsuit says. Therefore, the process of bag checks took five minutes at meal breaks and 10 minutes at end-of-shift because employees has to wait in a line with other employees. In Pelle’s case, the lawsuit claims he was required to wait in line at shift’s end “for 10-15 minutes every day during the week of February 19, 2013 to Febaury 23, 2013.”

The plaintiffs say the uncompensated overtime amounted to 50 minutes to 1½ hours during any given week. Based on Pelle’s pay, this amounted to approximately $1,400 in uncompensated hours worked and overtime, the lawsuit states.

Both Frlekin and Pelle said their supervisors knew of the bag checks and they memorialized their names in the lawsuit.

Both plaintiffs asked the court for unpaid wages and overtime, interest, “and such other legal and equitable relief as the Court deems just and proper.”

Download (pdf) the entire lawsuit for more details.

Employee Theft

Apple and other retailers are justified in focusing on employee theft—one survey noted that dishonest employees stole an average of 5½ times the value of merchandise taken by shoplifters in 2012. Further, both employee apprehensions and the value of merchandise recovered from them increased from 2011 to 2012. In all, over $50 million in merchandise was recovered from dishonest employees by just the 23 major retailers who participated in the survey.

Apple’s own training manual covers the topic under the “Internal Theft” heading. It includes stealing money, merchandise or software, the manual says, along with giving discounts to friends or strangers, conspiring with vendors or processing fraudulent credit card transactions.

The training manual even provides some reasons why employees might steam from Apple, such as financial issues, that the company “won’t miss one computer,” or in retaliation for being passed over for a pay increase or promotion. Another reason might be, “An employee may feel that Apple owes him or her something extra for all of his/her hard work.” Whatever the reason, “Apple does not tolerate dishonest at any level,” the training manual notes.

To combat theft, Apple follows industry-standard procedures to minimize the opportunity for crime. Employees are not permitted inside the store alone, and at least one manager must be present, for example. Trash removal must be supervised and inspected by a manager (and trash bags must be transparent).

As for bag checks, the manual states, “Purse, backpack, book bag, and package inspections must be conducted by a manager every time an employee leaves the store (for example, breaks, lunches, shift changes, and so on). This policy applies to all employees, including management.” If an employee routinely brings his/her iPod to work to use during meal breaks, it must be logged on a “Personal Technology Card” so its ownership can be verified if necessary.

At some stores, security guards have been seen performing bag checks instead of a manager.

End of Shifts

Of course, not all employees leave work at the same time for meal breaks or at the end of their shift. In fact, with a mix of full-time and part-time employees, there are employees leaving the at almost every hour at a typical mall Apple store. A variety of factors creates this periodic distribution of employee departures, which should be a consideration to attorneys prosecuting this civil lawsuit.

Like most retailers, Apple uses a mix of full-time and part-time employees, all working either three, four or five days a week. Some employees begin before the store opens and others stay after the store closes. Some work the same shifts each day while others work different hours during their work week. At one typical, large mall store, about two-thirds of the employees work a 40-hour week, with the rest part-timers. This store would have 16 different shift ending times during the work week, either on the hour or half-hour.

The bag checks are usually performed in the public retail space, and are visible to anyone who is observant. Typically, they involve a wave, fist-bump or high-five between the employee and manager, and a quick pull-open of any bag the employee is carrying. The inspection is usually only visual, without any rummaging through the bag by the manager or security guard.

Just as human nature is random, so are the employees arriving at the front door to leave work. Most observable bag checks take just 10-15 seconds. And if 10 employees arrived for a bag check at once, for example, only the last employee would be required to wait the longest time.

The graphs below depict a actual, large mid-America Apple store, and the times at which shift end from two days—it varies from day to day. Sundays and Tuesdays are unique: some employees stay until 11 p.m. and midnight respectively to handle various product set-up and graphics installation tasks.

According to the graph, eight of the 14 off-duty times involve fewer than five employees on a Tuesday. Four of the times involve just one employee leaving work at a time. Saturdays are much more congested, involving up to 14 employees going off-duty twice during the day.

Based on this information, the plaintiffs seem to have a high burden of proof. Frlekin and Pelle claim they waited “10-15 minutes every day” during a specific week. That seems to imply they always went off-duty at a busy hour/half-hour, always arrived for a bag check simultaneously with all the other employees going off-duty, and were always within the second half  (or even last one-quarter) of the employees waiting for a bag check.

The process of clocking out naturally creates a bottleneck of employees doing off-duty. However, based on even a modest amount of randomness in employee activities after clocking out, any one employee would arrive to the bag-check point at different times most days. Combined with the randomness of other employees’ behavior, any one employee’s position in any line would also be different on most days.

The lawsuit did not state how the plaintiff’s intend to provide proof in any future trial of their claims of waiting in line, including whether any of Apple’s own store surveillance video might show the bag check waiting lines.

On a typical Tuesday at a mall Apple store, the distribution of shift ending hours is wider, with fewer employees leaving at each hour.

On a typical Saturday, the end of shifts is weighted more toward 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., with up to 14 employees leaving at the same time.

Download (pdf) the chart of a typical Apple store’s ending hour times that is the basis for these charts.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Throwthatham August 2, 2013 at 0923

How long do you think it will be before failure to make sure 15’s are given is added?


David August 3, 2013 at 1453

When I was with Apple retail, my store was quite diligent with breaks and ensure all breaks were taken regardless of how busy it was with the purpose of avoiding a lawsuit.

I would agree about the bag check issue though. I have nothing against them and feel they are entirely appropriate, but management at my store and evidently at other stores showed an utter disregard for our personal time. In order to get a bag check you need to be punched out, then you need to run around a crowded store to find a manager. Often time, the manager on the floor will be interacting with a customer and will not briefly pause the interaction for a bag check. Some managers get annoyed too when you’re off to the side waiting for them to check your bags. Also if you called the manager’s office to ask if someone can come out to perform bag checks because the managers on the floor are busy, they would often make some snarky remarks and act as if we’ve seriously inconvenienced them.

Due to the traffic in our store, it was not unusual for employees to leave 30 minutes beyond the end of their shift, and we would obviously not be compensated for that time. Also, employees got so fed up with waiting that many simply lied about not having any Apple technology on their person and would leave without having their tech cards checked during breaks.


Throwthatham August 3, 2013 at 1500

Yup. It’s true and lucky for you that your managers made sure that 15’s happened. That’s not true everywhere .


Actual employee August 12, 2013 at 0950

Here’s my thing.

1. You were told about the bag checks from day one
2. Must folks don’t have a pressing requirement to bring a bag and do so its on them
3. Why did these folks never complain to HR etc. And if they did how come that isn’t being brought into the stories. It sure sounds like they just fished up a reason to sue after being fired or some such


David August 13, 2013 at 1442

1. That’s not the point, the point is that waiting for a lengthy amount of time for a bag check after your shift ends is unreasonable. How would you like it, if you had to wait more than 30 minutes to see your family or pick up your kids after work because you were waiting for someone to BECOME AVAILABLE to check your bag, and you were not compensated for your time and you could be immediately terminated if you refused to wait for that bag check.

2. A lot of people bring their own lunch to their workplace in all sorts of industries. That bag the lunch came in would need to be checked before you leave. Also your iPhone needs to be checked everytime you leave the store. Are you suggesting that, apple retail employees should leave their phones at home when they’re scheduled to work

3. Perhaps you’ve never worked at Apple. Complaining to HR at Apple pretty much gets your name on the secret chopping block list. Even though they claim you can report things anonymously, their system is flawed. Nobody picks up the phone at their HR line, you need to leave a message and someone will look into the issue. Unless you leave your contact info, you have no way of following up, and if you do leave your contact info your complaint is no longer anonymous.


Randel Ploffo August 21, 2013 at 0026

Again David most big company’s HR does not report to the store manager and if your looking to be anonymous why not ask for some kind of case number for you to follow up on. Call any customer relations and you can get the operators name badge number and some type of identification to your problem. Everything you said in#3 is speculation.


David August 27, 2013 at 1308

How is everything I said in number 3 speculation? This is my first hand experience in reporting misconduct as an Apple employee. Please tell me how I request a case number from an ANSWERING MACHINE?


Throwthatham August 13, 2013 at 1530

David, you DO work for Apple. What you say is true!


Randel Ploffo August 21, 2013 at 0030

No he’s not true. By definition true is Proven FACT! Apple is to big to have not heard about any case. Everything is his opinion.


Randel Ploffo August 18, 2013 at 2108

Where does it stop? Does Apple get to stop the employees from using the bathroom while on the clock or when they take an extra 5 min to order food to go from a local restraint? Or to make a phone call? Should apple pay for employees to sit around and chat when they are to be selling? or sending text message while on the sales floor? Many people bring lunch bags not sure a mac book pro would fit. don’t think it would take long to look at that.

From what I have read maybe apple should take away some of their perks like the paid gym membership, parking reimbursement, flu shoots, tuition reimbursement or part time benefits and 401k and have an 11 min grace period just to punch in. None of which I have. These cry baby kids chose to work for apple. Were told from day one. If they didn’t like it go work for another retailer and if they get anything. Like GAP you have to buy their clothes and make min wage. 18.75 an hour. and 15 min (maybe) to look at a book bag they chose to bring into, a store mind you, with very small and expensive products. quit. join the army.

It doesn’t take long sitting at the genius bar to see most of the above. I even heard and employee say he could help a customer because he had his break in 5 mins. Try that in the real world. Apple should pay him to stand and do nothing for 5 min before he goes right. Most have little to know skill other them telling how long I have to wait.

Again where does this stop? I guess I should complain I have to wait just to punch my time card. Or that I had to wait to get on the bus I should pay less at the end of the line. Hell I should be paid for waking up and driving to work and overtime to wait at a stop light.

Hope Apple loses, maybe it will expose how little the employees really do and how entitled these kids think they are.


David August 20, 2013 at 1631

You’re not getting the point. The problem is not the amount of time it takes to perform a bag check, it’s the amount of time waiting for a bag check to even be initiated.

The solution to this all of this is very simple. Just get the managers who are hiding in the back office who are gossiping and making dinner plans on the phone to come out for a few minutes when shifts are ending to be available to perform bag checks.


Randel Ploffo August 20, 2013 at 2346

Most Apple stores are busy Yes? They have what 50 to 500 employees in the big stores (NY) if your manager do nothing but sit and gossip, I call bull Sh*t. It seems to me that more peer conversations need to be had. Just like a check out in a quiki-mart its not the clerks fault that your not ready to pay. I bet more employees don’t have out and ready what needs to be checked.


David August 27, 2013 at 1310

You are such a hypocrite. You call me out on being speculative in my comments, and now you’re speculating about the behaviour of Apple employees. I can tell you from first hand experience that employees are eager to leave when their shift ends and have their bags unzipped and ready to be checked so they can promptly attend other obligations.


Throwthatham August 19, 2013 at 1351

Randel, We HAVE been told that we need to ask to leave the floor to go to the bathroom.


Randel Ploffo August 20, 2013 at 2348

Good. Makes sense. I’m sure you cover a zone and if your gone who is there? Maybe that why managers can’t do bag checks they are running around looking for employees that should be on the floor.


Joe Apple August 19, 2013 at 1656

OF COURSE you have to let someone know that you’ll be off the sales floor to use the bathroom.


Throwthatham August 19, 2013 at 1837

Are you serious? We are adults and should be able to deal with personal needs without asking the teacher.


Joe Apple August 19, 2013 at 1859

Ummm… if you’re expected to be on the sales floor, your manager needs to know where you are while you’re on the clock. This is work 101.


Randel Ploffo August 20, 2013 at 2329

Not saying you need a “teacher” while most do. But you chose to work for Apple and if you have to be paid to wait to have a bag checked Apple should able to docked you for all you PERSONAL NEEDS.


Randel Ploffo August 21, 2013 at 0016

You also don’t sound like an “adult” when you’re crying about waiting to get you diaper bag checked and I’m SURE you adult enough to take calls, send texts, hang out and chat, check Facebook, and my fav… not help a customer because you have 5 min till your break. But thats different, your an adult and all that was personal stuff and an emergency. But hey you have 11min (so i read) to clock in. #entitlement #imabigboy #imthemostimportant


Joe Apple August 21, 2013 at 1158

There is (or was circa 2009) a 5-minute grace period in punching in for work. This was likely in line with CA’s very liberal labor laws, and every store had to follow the same policy.

“Patterned behavior (for tardiness) includes abusing the grace periods” allowed under this policy, (i.e. reporting to work 1 to 5 mintues late)”

So it wasn’t, in fact, a grace period at all. Show a pattern of being 1-5 minutes late and progressive discipline begins.


Joe Apple August 21, 2013 at 1159

Pattern Behavior

Pattern behavior is defined as a pattern of absences and/or tardiness where you miss times in the same manner; such as grouping your time missed in a way that avoids additional discipline or by missing the same day, week, month, critical business periods, shift etc.

Patterned behavior includes abusing the “grace periods” allowed for under this policy. (i.e. reporting to work 1 to 5 minutes late). The grace period is provided in recognition that there may be exceptional circumstances that may on occasion prevent an employee from reporting to work on time. It is not to be abused.

Patterned behavior is not acceptable and can result in an Attendance Warning or discipline up to immediate termination without further disciplinary actions.


Randel Ploffo August 21, 2013 at 2055

Check your source. Apple Employees have an 11 min grace period to punch in. And to my point should not be paid to wait and have a bag checked. If you have a Patterned behavior of holding up the line the manager should place you at the back.


formerfemalegeni August 20, 2013 at 1034

$150 fitness reimbursement barely covers 2 months at the gym in nyc
I have no choice to bring in a bag in (working in nyc)
I work in IT in the “real world” and working for Apple was much more demanding.


Randel Ploffo August 21, 2013 at 0004

Poor baby, $150 just given to you to cover part of YOUR fitness and well-being. Maybe Apple should take it way to cover paying people to wait to check their bags they chose to bring in. Regardless if you have to or not they were told about it. Why didn’t they bring it up then. Well because working for Apple probably sounds really good and they don’t realize its work. Like most jobs we don’t get all the extras. I’m sure working for Apple is demanding, I have been there and the people I have talked to know a lot of information and do many things at the same time. I get it. Getting paid for bag checks is mind blowing. Its not like this is a new idea. its not iCheckBag. It comes with any company that has something to lose. Cry babies.


Darth Apple September 18, 2013 at 1332

Seems like to me there are a lot of kool-aid drinkers on the comment board. Continue being anti employee.


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