Apple Employees’ Labor Suit Partly Redirected to Arbitration

A former Apple Inc. employee has had his labor law claims sent to arbitration. Last week’s opinion from the Northern District of California found that the employee could not evade the arbitration agreement he signed during his employment as a “Solutions Consultant,” a liaison who promotes and sells Apple products at retailers like Best Buy.

The case was filed in July by former Apple workers and alleged underpayment of wages, including overtime pay. It further accused Apple of not compensating them for time spent in transit between mandatory work activities.

Apple moved to compel arbitration of one plaintiff’s claims on the basis that the employee signed a binding arbitration agreement. 

In last week’s opinion, the court said that the agreement required sending his individual claims to arbitration because it encompassed all matters relating to his employment. Judge Vince Chhabria’s two-page opinion disposed of the plaintiff’s arguments as to why he should not be compelled to arbitrate his wage claims as “meritless.”

The court first turned to the plaintiff’s argument that his arbitration agreement contained an opt-out option which he now sought to exercise. The court said there was no proof that the agreement contained a secret opt-out provision, calling the idea “fantastical.” The plaintiff’s secondary argument, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable, fared no better. “[T]his theory reprises the absurd idea of an undisclosed opt-out provision,” the court said.

Ultimately, Judge Chhabria compelled the individual’s claims to arbitration, and because there was no other named plaintiff for the class action claims, dismissed them. The case’s Fair Labor Standards Act causes of action are set to go forward as previously scheduled.

In closing, the court reminded counsel for the plaintiffs to “be mindful of their Rule 11 obligation not to make frivolous contentions.”

The plaintiff is represented by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, Stiegler Law Firm LLC, and Robert B. Landy PLLC. Apple is represented by Jackson Lewis P.C.