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Apple offers $30 million to settle off-the-clock bag search controversy

The fight has dragged on since 2013.
People walk past an Apple retail store on July 13, 2021 in New York City. - Stock markets were slightly softer on news of the biggest jump in US inflation in more than two decades and disappointment in results from US investment banks. As trading ended in London, Frankfurt and Paris, major indices hovered around the zero mark, while the Dow Jones index was also a tiny bit lower in midday New York exchanges. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
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Steve Dent
Steve Dent|@stevetdent|November 15, 2021 3:48 AM

Last year, California's supreme court ruled that Apple broke the law by failing to pay employees while they waited for mandatory bag and iPhone searches. Now, Apple has offered to pay $30 million to settle the suit and lawyers for the employees have urged them to accept it, Apple Insider has reported. "This is a significant, non-reversionary settlement reached after nearly eight years of hard-fought litigation," wrote plaintiff attorney Lee Shalov in the proposed settlement seen by Courthouse News.

Employees launched the suit way back in 2013, saying they weren't paid while being searched for stolen merchandise or trade secrets. The workers felt they were still under Apple's "control" during that five to 20 minute process and should therefore be compensated. Apple in turn argued that the employees could choose not to bring their bags or iPhones, thus avoiding a search in the first place.

Apple won an earlier battle in district court, but the case went to the California Supreme Court on appeal. There, the judges ruled that Apple workers were "clearly under Apple's control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches." The court dismissed Apple's argument that bringing a bag to work was an employee convenience, particularly that Apple felt employees didn't necessarily need to bring their iPhones to work.

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"Its characterization of the iPhone as unnecessary for its own employees is directly at odds with its description of the iPhone as an 'integrated and integral' part of the lives of everyone else," the judges wrote. In that statement, the court referenced a 2017 Tim Cook interview where he stated that the iPhone was "so so integrated and integral to our lives, you wouldn't think about leaving home without it."

The settlement is still subject to approval by the plaintiffs. Nearly 12,000 current and former Apple Store employees in California involved in the lawsuit stand to receive a maximum payment of around $1,200.

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Apple offers $30 million to settle off-the-clock bag search controversy