TECH
07/30/2013 03:23 pm ET

Apple Store Workers Sue Over Lost Wages For Having To Wait In Line

AP

Apple doesn't just have a problem with workers in Chinese factories. The world's richest tech company is now being accused of skimping on wages in the United States.

Two former Apple Store employees filed a class-action against the tech giant late last week, claiming that Apple doesn't pay for the time store workers must spend at security checkpoints when they leave work for the day or during lunch.

Former Los Angeles Apple Store worker Amanda Frlekin said that when she left the store for her unpaid lunch break or to go home, she was required to go through "personal package and bag checks," according to the suit, filed in San Francisco federal court.

The searches are presumably done to deter thefts of iPhones and other electronics, which can fetch a significant markup on the black market.

Low-wage warehouse workers filed a similar suit against an Amazon contractor in 2010. A group of former workers claim they were made to wait in line for up to 25 minutes at the end of the day so guards could check for stolen goods. Amazon itself isn't named in the lawsuit.

The cases highlight a distributing trend among high-profit technology companies: While Silicon Valley compensates its executives and blue-chip engineers with competitive salaries, juicy stock options and office perks, it cuts corners when paying those who do the "grunt" work.

Though Frlekin's lawyers claim the Apple Store's checks took only about 50 minutes per week, they estimate that over the course of a year she lost about $1,500 in wages. Frlekin made between $12.10 and $15.60 an hour during her three-year stint at the store. Dean Pelle, the other plaintiff who worked at Apple Stores in Atlanta, West Palm Beach and New York, claims to have lost $1,400 in uncompensated hours.

A New York Times article from 2012 made a compelling case that Apple's retail employees are underpaid. "Divide revenue by total number of employees and you find that last year, each Apple store employee — that includes non-sales staff like technicians and people stocking shelves — brought in $473,000," the paper's David Segal calculated. Contrast that figure to Apple Store workers' average annual pay of $25,000.

[h/t GigaOM]

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