In what is an extremely rare occurrence, Apple employees working at its retail stores have sued the company for back pay for the time it took to have their bags search when leaving the stores after work.
On Thursday, a federal judge certified a case as a class-action on behalf of employees at 52 of the iPhone maker’s outlets in California.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup handed down the ruling in San Francisco, all part of a lawsuit filed in 2013, in which it is alleged Apple should be required to compensate thousands of its store employees for the time required for their bags to be searched to ensure they did not steal any of the valuable merchandise the stores sell to consumers.
Two Apple retail store employees directly complained to Chief Executive Tim Cook that the company’s policy of inspecting employees’ bags as a security measure was not only demeaning but also embarrassing, according to public court documents.
When a lawsuit has been certified as a class action, it allows for the plaintiffs to sue as a group instead of individually and usually grants them more leverage when negotiating a settlement. Members of the class action in the bag search case are inclusive of over 12,000 current and former employees, according to the ruling.
A representative for Apple declined to comment.
Dean Pelle and Amanda Frlekin, plaintiffs, claim that bag searches or "screenings", implemented to discourage theft, are performed every time a sales rep leaves the store, this includes for meal breaks.
One employee, whose name was redacted from the court document, reported to Cook in a 2012 message that managers at Apple "are required to treat 'valued' employees as criminals."
The message was forwarded by Cook to top executives with the question: "Is this true?" The responses Cook received were not included in the court filing.
Apple had argued in court documents that the case was not appropriate for class action status due to the fact that all stores did not perform bag searches, and the searches that did occur took a very small amount of time, undeserving of compensation.
Alsup ruled those issues could be argued at trial.
Dissention within the ranks at Apple is extremely rare, with most employees only hired because they show near-fanatical devotion to the brand and exclusively use its products.