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Apple faces class-action lawsuit over alleged unfair work practices

Apple may be sitting pretty just at the minute with billions of dollars of profit reported in its latest financial quarter, but thousands of its current and former employees in California are now part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the tech giant over alleged violations of worker rights.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2011 by four former employees working in both the corporate and retail divisions of the business. Following several years in the court system, the filing was this week categorized as a class-action suit, allowing up to 20,000 current and former workers in the state to become part of the legal proceedings.

Alleged labor violations

Lawyers acting on behalf of the hourly-wage claimants allege that certain sections of the California Labor Code have been violated by the Cupertino-based firm, with complaints including short notice periods of as little as 72 hours, late payment of wages at the end of employment, and a failure to provide timely meal and rest breaks. Failure to pay when employees worked through breaks was also cited.

In addition, the filing says that Apple’s policies allowed it to “invoke fear into the class members that if they so much as discuss the various labor policies, they run the risk of being fired, sued, or disciplined.”

The huge number of claimants, which includes workers ranging from Apple store employees and call center reps to junior engineers, could understandably turn the case into a real headache for Apple. However, it’s not the first time the company’s lawyers have had to deal with such class-action litigation.

Class-action experience

As recently as April, Apple, together with Google, Intel, and Adobe, were ordered to pay $324 million by a California court after tech workers accused the companies of conspiring to keep down Silicon Valley salaries by agreeing not to go after each other’s employees.

More famously, a class-action lawsuit brought by a number of iPhone 4 owners who’d been experiencing reception problems with their handsets resulted in a small cash payout, or free bumper case, for their phone.

Dubbed ‘antennagate’, the 2010 suit was brought by iPhone 4 users who’d refused Apple’s original offer of a free case to resolve the connection issue. The issue was finally settled in February 2012.

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