Apple employees file class action suit for employment law violations

Apple employees filed a class action lawsuit claiming that the company violated California employment laws about meal and rest brakes.

On July 22, 2014 a California judge certified about 21,000 employees of Apple, Inc. as a class in their lawsuit alleging that Apple had violated the state's employment laws by not allowing its employees to take breaks for meals and rest. The lawsuit shows how class action suits can be an effective means of protecting employees' rights.

California employment laws

California law requires employers to provide employees with a 30-minute meal break for a shift that lasts at least five hours. Employers also have to allow employees a 10-minute break for rest for each shift lasting four hours. Employees also are entitled to an additional 10-minute rest break if a shift runs from six to 10 hours long. California law obligates employers to provide employees with an additional hour of pay each time employees are not allowed to take breaks in a "timely" manner or denied breaks altogether.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2011 by four employees who worked in Apple retail stores and in corporate operations, provided evidence that Apple did not allow employees to take rest and meal breaks in a timely manner, and in some cases did not let them take breaks at all. Employees did not receive the extra hour of pay that they were supposed to get under state law when their breaks are late or denied, according to the suit. The plaintiffs also argued that Apple's policy of not allowing employees to discuss working conditions had a chilling effect on employees, preventing them from reporting violations of employment laws for fear of losing their jobs.

The lawsuit alleges that the violations occurred between December 2007 and August 2012. Apple changed its policies in August 2012 in an effort to comply with the law, nine months after the four employees initially filed their lawsuit.

Class action most appropriate

The judge who certified Apple employees as a class noted that a class action suit was the most appropriate way to handle claims such as this case. The cost of litigation would be too high for individual employees, compared to the compensation for their unpaid wages that they would receive from their claims. However, the potential cost to the employer is huge if the employees successfully prove their claims that the employer engaged in wide-spread violations of employment laws.

Handling employment law matters

Employees often feel like they are powerless to do anything when employers violate employment laws. They may fear losing their jobs or other forms of retaliation, and may not think that it is worthwhile to try to pursue a lawsuit to recover for their losses. However, as the Apple case shows, when employees unite to protect their rights, employers can be held accountable for their employment practices. If you have questions about employment law matters, speak with an experienced employment law class action attorney who can assess your situation and advise you whether you have a claim to pursue.

Keywords: employment class actions; employment law; wage and hour violations