Apple Hourly Workers' Core Complaint: Denied Breaks in Calif.

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 29, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Fresh on the heels of settling a labor class action (assuming the objectors don't nuke the deal) regarding a Silicon Valley anti-poaching pact, Apple finds itself again on the defensive, and again, it's a labor class action.

This time, a mega-class of current and former Apple workers in California allege that the company's break policies violated California law, both by giving lunch breaks after the five-hour mark and by denying workers a second rest break for longer shifts.

Late last week, a San Diego judge certified the class, which covers nearly 21,000 current and former hourly retail and corporate Apple employees over a four-year period from December 2007 to August 2012, reports the San Jose Mercury-News. California law provides that employees must be paid the equivalent of one hour's wage for each missed break -- a huge tab considering the size of the company.

Basic California Labor Law Says...

California law is pretty clear on breaks: For a shift lasting longer than five hours, an employee should be given a lunch break before the clock hits the end of the fifth hour. Also, for every four hours worked, a 10-minute rest break is required. In addition, if a shift lasts longer than six hours, then a worker is supposed to be given a second rest break, reports The New York Times.

It's not particularly complicated, which makes it actually quite surprising that Apple botched its break policy so badly.

Judge Ronald S. Prager, in a ruling certifying the class, noted that Apple changed its policy nine months after the lawsuit was filed, and had no record of employees ever being compensated for missed breaks before November 2012.

As for That Other Lawsuit...

As for the anti-poaching pact settlement, it's not quite a done deal.

Though a $324 million settlement was announced, it has yet to be approved by Judge Lucy Koh, who expressed reservations last month over whether it was a fair deal for the employees, reports Reuters. She noted (as did we) that the employees had a lot of leverage in the case -- most notably, emails from company officials discussing the anti-poaching pact.

The case took an even more odd turn earlier this month when it was discovered that one of the objections was filed under a stolen identity. Cathy Jones, a solo attorney, told The Wall Street Journal that the motions, which were filed with her name and state bar number, were filed without her knowledge or permission.

"That's my state bar number, but I did not file that," she said. "Somebody just hijacked my name and bar number. I'm really mad about this."

Editor's Note, August 5, 2014: This post has been revised to clarify California's law about meal breaks.

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