A recent lawsuit against Apple filed by its own employees has been ruled a class action suit by a federal judge. The decision could affect more than 12,000 past and present employees who are upset with the tech company’s bag searching policy.
The plaintiffs in the suit Amanda Frlekin and Dean Pelle are seeking payment for their time spent waiting to have their bags searched for stolen merchandise. Employees would be searched whenever they left the store, including when they were going on breaks, and at the end of their shifts.
On Thursday U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled the 2013 lawsuit could involve current and former Apple employees in all of 52 of the California stores.
At least two Apple employees allege they took their cause to CEO Tim Cook, telling him they felt the policy was demeaning.
One employee told Cook in 2012 that Apple managers “are required to treat ‘valued’ employees as criminals.”Cook then forwarded the email message to other top Apple employees, asking, “Is this true?”
The class action suit will involve around 12,000 workers who will now be class members unless they choose to opt out of the suit. Part of the concern of the workers is that they often had to wait for up to 15 minutes to get searched prior to leaving.
Michael Risch, a law professor at Villanova University, told Bloomberg that the total could reach as high as $60 million, with another possible $15 million in penalties if they were to lose.
Apple argued that the suit does not deserve class action status simply because not all stores perform the searches, and in most cases searches take little time to complete. Apple also argued that the suit should not be class action on the grounds that there are too many variables surrounding the searches at each store. However, Judge Alsup does not see it that way and wants it to undergo a more comprehensive hearing.
The employees will be facing un uphill battle if they want to win this case. Just last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Amazon employees in a similar suit. The Court declared that the security checks were not a core part of their job, so they were not owed any compensation.[Reuters]