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Ex-Apple bods suing Apple for bag searches get class-action upgrade

Federal judge throws open legal battle to thousands of store staff

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Two former Apple Store staffers suing Apple for searching their bags at work for possible stolen gear have upgraded their legal challenge to a wide-ranging class-action lawsuit.

Judge William Alsup approved the class-action status in California's northern district court in San Francisco on Thursday. It means the lawsuit, launched in 2013 by Amanda Frlekin and Dean Pelle, can be opened up to 12,000 or more past and present employees in Apple Stores – the biz employs as many as 42,000 workers in its chic shops.

The iPhone giant had argued that the complaint should not be a class-action battle, but the judge disagreed.

Frlekin worked at an Apple Store in Los Angeles, California, from 2010 to 2013, while Pelle worked in Apple Stores in Georgia, Florida, and New York from 2007 to 2013. The duo claim in their court filing that their bags were searched by their bosses every time they left the stores, even at lunchtimes, to make sure they weren't stealing any iGear.

According to documents submitted to the court, one unnamed store employee wrote to CEO Tim Cook saying the searches "treat employees as ‘criminals’, and is ‘embarrassing’, ‘demeaning’, and ‘disturbing’." Cook apparently forwarded the message to his lieutenants, asking: "Is this true?" No reply is mentioned in the filings.

Frlekin and Pelle reckon these checks kept them in the stores for an extra 50 to 90 minutes a week, during which time they weren't paid. Now they want the Cupertino goliath to cough up compensation – perhaps as much as $1,400 per year worked at Apple.

Apple argues that the searches were so quick, there's no need to pay out any cash. The case continues. ®

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