Apple sued for treating staff like terrorists

tim-cook-apple-ceoTwo Apple retail store workers complained directly to Chief Executive Tim Cook that the company’s policy of checking retail employees’ bags as a security precaution was embarrassing and demeaning.

The employee complaints are part of a 2013 lawsuit alleging the super paranoid Apple should compensate employees for the time it takes to conduct the searches.

One worker, whose name was blacked out of the court filing, told Cook that Apple managers “are required to treat ‘valued’ employees as criminals”.

Cook apparently was surprised and forwarded it to top retail and human resources executives with the query: “Is this true?”

Sadly we don’t know what he was told and Apple is saying nothing about why it brought in spot searches more reminiscent of sweeps for terrorists at airports.

Plaintiffs Amanda Friekin and Dean Pelle alleged that “screenings” or bag searches, designed to discourage theft, are conducted every time sales reps leave the store, including for meal breaks. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks class action status.

It is rare that Apple gets sued, despite some fairly draconian staff security policies. The reason is similar to why staff at Christian book shops work for peanuts in that they actually believe that they are distributing the Good News rather than making their employers richer.

A US Supreme Court ruling last December involving an Amazon.com ruled that companies do not have to pay employees for the time they spend undergoing security checks at the end of their shifts.

The Supremes found that because the screening process is not a “principal activity” of the workers’ jobs under a federal labour law it is not subject to compensation.  After all it is the Land of the Free and corporates could do what they like.

In the 2012 email to Cook, with a subject line “Fearless Feedback from Apple Retail Specialist,” the employee said Apple’s policy implies the company does not trust its workers.

“These procedures are often performed in front of gawking customers,” the employee wrote, adding that workers deserve to be treated with the same respect that Apple shows customers.

A hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for July 2.