California Labor Law: Taking a Bite Out of Apple


San Diego, CA The California computer giant has long been accused of working their employees to the bone??"but this time Apple allegedly has a new worm. The mother of the iPod and the iPhone has been accused of violating California labor laws by mis-classifying employees in a bid to evade the payment of overtime.

Computer OvertimeGiven that the State serves as the defacto home base to the computer industry (Silicon Valley, et al) California has a number of unique laws and statues over and above the federal employment regulations that are designed to protect California workers from being taken to the cleaners by their employers.

Such employers have a limited window of opportunity to legally avoid having to pay overtime. Those allowances include certain managerial positions, and employees who earn income above a certain threshold. That threshold, it should be noted, was recently lowered in favor of the employer. Not only is the employer freed from paying overtime to a larger collection of employees, the threshold change means that the overtime rate in real dollars paid, is lower as well.

That doesn't appear to be enough for some employers, who feel like they have to circumvent California State labor law by incorrectly classifying employees in a bid to avoid paying them their due.

That's the accusation against Apple in a 40-page class action lawsuit filed last Thursday in San Diego court by former Apple network engineer David Walsh, who claims that Apple knowingly violated California Labor Law overtime and Industrial Welfare Commission requirements by "systematically" misclassifying Walsh, and his fellow technicians as management.

Apple is alleged to have created hundreds of seemingly unique positions that, in reality, were subtle variants of the same role. As an example, the simple placement of the word 'Senior' in front of 'Network Engineer' created an instant managerial position that would allow the employer to require long hours without any hope for overtime pay??"even though the Senior Network Engineer was doing the same work as the larger pool of network engineers.

According to the complaint, the number of work hours required by the company was appalling. Walsh claims that even though he was scheduled for an eight-hour day, the reality was anything but, as his employer would allegedly direct him to maintain the network "well into the night." Walsh also claims that he was on call at all times of the day, and that many calls would come in after 11pm, or on weekends.

Not only did Walsh have to defer leisure activities, but he also found himself deferring more important tasks, such as going to the doctor or even taking a meal break.

It has been reported that Apple bestowed the management title on Walsh even though his work did not change??"that of installing, and maintaining computer networks. He was, as a result, found to be working alongside other technicians, performing the same tasks, who had no title.

And even though he was classified as management, Walsh claims that he had no authority over where he could go (in the workplace) and required permission from the true executives and site staff.

Even though he was classified as management.

Walsh, who is seeking class action status for his California State labor lawsuit,
wants to force Apple to properly classify employees according to the work they do. He also wants Apple to compensate employees who missed out on overtime pay, and advance any employee the equivalent of two hours of pay for each full day of work where a technician wasn't allowed a meal break.

The suit was filed August 8, 2008

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