WAGE AND HOUR » Preview of future overtime lawsuits?

apple-storeLawsuits over unpaid overtime tend to occur in cycles, and a round of litigation over unpaid overtime can trigger “copycat” claims against employers around the country. Overtime lawsuits can be lucrative, particularly when they are class actions involving a large number of employees. That’s why last week’s class action lawsuit brought against Apple, Inc. got my attention.

Taylor Kalin filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal count against Apple complaining his employer failed to correctly pay him for hours worked and failed to pay him overtime that he was entitled to receive under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California state law. Kalin was a full-time, non-exempt employee who had worked as a specialist at Apple retail stores in Spokane and San Francisco, California. As a specialist, he was responsible for customer support relating to retail sales as well as performing some diagnostic checks on Apple hardware and software.

According to Kalin’s complaint, Apple used time-tracking software developed by Kronos, Inc. and required employees to enter their username and password to clock in and clock out each day. Kalin says non-exempt employees were required to clock in when they arrived at work, clock out when they went on a meal break, clock in when returning from meal breaks, and clock out when they left for the day. Kalin’s lawsuit focuses on several “waiting times,” which he argues should be treated as hours worked and for which employees should be paid.

At the beginning of each day, Kalin complains that he waited in line 15 to 30 minutes before he was able to clock in and begin his day of work. That was because employees arrived at the same time, and all were required to clock in before starting work. Similarly, Kalin complains that employees returning from their meal periods are required to wait in line to clock back in and resume work. In his lawsuit, Kalin takes the position that time spent by employees waiting in line for their turn to clock in at the beginning of the day or when returning from meal periods should be treated as hours worked, and they should be paid for that waiting time.

While working at the Apple store, specialists were required to use company-owned electronic devices. Apple required employees to check out the devices at the beginning of a shift and check in the devices when beginning a meal period. Employees were required to check in devices at the end of their shift as well. Because many employees were checking in electronic devices at the same time, the waiting time for checking in equipment at the beginning of the meal period or at the end of the shift could take anywhere from five to 45 minutes, according to Kalin. Kalin’s lawsuit takes the position that any waiting time to check in equipment at the beginning of a meal period or at the end of the shift should be treated as hours worked, and employees should also be paid for that waiting time.

Finally, after they clocked out at the beginning of a meal break or at the end of their shift, Kalin says that he and other employees underwent a security search of any packages, belongings and bags before they were permitted to leave the store. According to the lawsuit, the wait in line for these security checks took a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes everyday. The search was intended to prevent employee theft, and Kalin’s lawsuit seeks payment for the time spent waiting for a security check before leaving for meal breaks and at the end of a work day.

Kalin seeks to bring these claims for failure to pay wages and failure to pay overtime as a class action on behalf of all non-exempt employees working in retail stores for Apple during the last three years who experienced these off-the-clock wait time periods. It remains to be seen whether Kalin is successful in his lawsuit against Apple over these wage and overtime allegations. Based on what has happened in the past, don’t be surprised if other employers face similar lawsuits about unpaid “wait time” in the wake of this Apple litigation.