A federal judge said on Wednesday he was prepared to rule in favor of a class of 12,400 Apple retail workers who allege the tech giant unfairly enforced unpaid bag filtering policies, putting up what could be a series of damages lawsuits.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup, in a hearing Monday, said he plans to issue summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, but will allow Apple to challenge individual claims on a case-by-case basis, reports Reuters.
The case dates back to 2013, when employees sued Apple over anti-theft measures, including “degrading” bag checks, which were instituted in 2009. Class-action plaintiffs have argued they would have had to be compensated for time spent complying with Apple’s screening protocols, which were designed to deter theft of company property.
According to court documents, the “employee searches for parcels and bags” rule required managers to search an employee’s bags and personal devices (such as iPhones) after clocking in at the end of the workday and , in some cases, lunch breaks. The complainants argued that the routine wait times during these security checks deprived them of a salary in excess of $ 1,400 per year.
Alsup dismissed the original case in 2014, but allowed a class action lawsuit to move forward under California law. The lawsuit was also dismissed in 2015, with the lawyer saying employees could have circumvented Apple’s research by not bringing a bag to work.
Alsup’s decision was overturned when the California Supreme Court ruled last year that employees were and are under Apple’s control during mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, devices and other items. State law requires companies to compensate employees for time spent on anti-theft programs. A subsequent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived the class action suit as is.
Alsup said on Wednesday it planned to hold a series of “mini-lawsuits” on damages, in which Apple lawyers could argue against members’ individual claims. Specifically, some group members may not have waited long enough to reach a threshold for compensation. Apple lawyers pushed employees to fill out detailed forms about how long and when security checks were done, but the idea was rejected.
“I am not going to require applicants to determine each day they have been in line and how long they have been in line; if they gave dates, they would not be telling the truth,” Alsup said. “Apple is just unlucky on this point.”
Instead, employees will estimate the time spent on bag tracing exercises.
Court documents show Apple could be liable for some $ 60 million in damages, according to the report.