The task of defining “work” may seem pretty straightforward, but it’s not always as easy as most people think. As with just about everything in life, there are two sides to every story.
From the employee’s perspective, work consists of anything required by the employer. This frequently includes any time the employee is required to remain on the employer’s premises, regardless of whether or not she is actively working at the moment.
From the employer’s perspective, work is defined as any task performed by the employee that directly benefits the employer, but even this is not always so easy to define in a way that all parties can agree on.
The practice of requiring employees to remain on the premises to check their bags, even after they have clocked out for the day, is one instance that has demanded a clear definition of “work”. On the one hand, the employee is not actively performing tasks for the employer. On the other hand, it is time during which the employee is prevented from moving freely about the world, and so workers are arguing they should be paid for that time.
Many retailers require all their hourly workers to go through bag checks before leaving the premises to make sure they aren’t hiding any stolen merchandise in their bags. Although this is not technically a work-related task performed by the employee, it certainly benefits the employer by making sure revenue is not lost in the form of stolen merchandise.
A number of hourly nonexempt workers of various retail stores have been filing wage and hour lawsuits against their employers for the unpaid time spent waiting in line to have their bags checked.
Apple has now joined those ranks as a wage and hour class action lawsuit alleges some store managers required employees to wait 10-15 minutes after they had clocked out for they day to have their bags checked. With some of the most expensive merchandise on the market, few companies have more to gain by keeping merchandise safe than Apple.
Apple argued against class certification, claiming it was not a company-wide policy and only some store managers conducted the bag searches. Apple also claimed that, even when searches were performed, they did not take enough time to warrant compensation.
But if the plaintiffs’ allegations of being forced to wait 10-15 minutes each time they had to wait to have their bags checked can be proven, that time can add up over months and years of employment, resulting in significant unpaid time.
The class action lawsuit also alleges the bag checks were embarrassing and demeaning. The managers who conducted the searches allegedly treated the workers like criminals and were often performed the checks in front of customers.
The class action lawsuit was initially filed in 2013, and although Apple tried to have the wage and hour lawsuit dismissed, a federal judge in San Francisco recently granted the plaintiffs class certification, allowing the case to proceed to the next stage in the courts. The wage and hour class action lawsuit is seeking damages for unpaid wages and overtime in addition to other appropriate damages.
Our Villa Park and Elmhurst wage and hour attorneys and unpaid overtime lawyers and attorneys are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
Nationwide Consumer Rights is based in Chicago and Oakbrook Terrace. We represent clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at 630-333-0333 or through our online form.