Apple Inc is facing accusations of shortchanging thousands of employees who have not been getting paid while being forced to wait in line to show they are not trying to steal an iPhone, iPad or other merchandise from the company’s bustling stores.
The complaint filed on Thursday last week in a San Francisco federal court threatens to increase public scrutiny of how Apple treats the lower-paid contractors and employees who make and sell the products that have enriched the Cupertino, California-based company.
Much of the attention has focused on whether Apple has done enough to protect the rights of workers assembling its devices in China and in other overseas factories.
However, some of the former workers in Apple’s often-packed stores have also complained about being underpaid and overworked.
Those grievances could gather more momentum if the lawsuit filed by two former Apple store employees, Amanda Frlekin and Dean Pelle, is certified as a class-action suit.
Apple spokeswoman Amy Bessette declined to discuss the case yesterday, citing the company’s legal policies.
The complaint seeks to represent Apple employees who have worked in the company’s US stores within the past three years.
Lawyers handling the lawsuit are also looking to expand the complaint to represent Apple employees in the company’s California and New York stores for even longer periods because of differences in those two states’ laws.
The case hinges on accusations that Apple requires store workers who are paid by the hour to submit to searches of their bags and other personal belongings as an anti-theft measure before they are allowed to leave the premises.
The lawsuit alleges the store employees routinely must wait their turn to be searched even though they are not being paid for the additional time.
The lawsuit estimates that the unpaid detention periods routinely spanned a total of 15 to 30 minutes per shift, based on the experiences of Frlekin and Pelle. If the employees had been properly paid while waiting to be searched, they would have earned an additional US$1,400 to US$1,500 annually, the lawsuit estimates.
The calculations are based on the assumption that Apple store employees are paid anywhere from the minimum wage to US$18.75 per hour.
Apple earned US$6.9 billion in its latest quarter ending on Monday, or nearly US$3.2 million per hour.
More than 42,000 of Apple’s employees work in the company’s retail division, the lawsuit said.
It is unlikely that all of those workers would be covered by the allegations contained in the complaint.
Apple’s stores rank among the most profitable retail destinations in the world, thanks largely to the appeal of the company’s gadgetry.