Case Summary: Plaintiff, Steve Camuti, requested class certification of all persons employed in the position of “Genius” for Apple, Inc., from September 15, 2005 to the time of trial, allegedly for missed rest periods, as well as for derivative claims arising from the alleged, missed rest periods. Apple brought its own Motion to Strike the Class Allegations/Deny Certification of the proposed Class. The Superior Court for the County of San Francisco denied Plaintiff’s Motion for Class Certification and granted Apple’s Motion to Deny Class Certification. (Steve Camuti v. Apple, Inc., et. al., San Francisco Superior Court Case No: CGC-09-492590, Order filed June 21, 2011).

Apple’s Rest Break Policy: Apple’s written rest break policy for Geniuses provides a paid, 15-minute rest break every four hours, exceeding the 10-minute per 4 hours worked minimum mandated by California wage and hour laws. The policy is posted, is available to employees, and Apple trained its Geniuses in the policy.

Plaintiff, Camuti’s Theory: Camuti asserted that Apple’s rest period policy was a policy in name only. Advancing alternative theories, Camuti asserted that Apple’s use of Concierge scheduling software and Apple’s overall policy to provide first-class customer service, became an unwritten policy to discourage if not prevent breaks by Geniuses. Specifically, Camuti alleged that 1). this unwritten, Company-wide policy allegedly forced Geniuses to miss breaks entirely, or 2). This unwritten company-wide policy allegedly required Geniuses to take breaks at a time other than scheduled. Camuti never offered any legal authority for the proposition that an employer must authorize and permit rest breaks on a specific schedule, nor is that mandated by the California Labor Code.

Plaintiff, Camuti’s Testimony: As a Genius, Plaintiff Camuti admitted that he knew about the policy; knew that he was obligated to follow the policy and that, as “Genius Captain,” he was even responsible for scheduling meal periods and rest periods for other Geniuses. Camuti admitted that he concluded on his own that Apple’s commitment to customer service was more important than taking his daily rest periods. In fact, he admitted that he knew of no policy that required him to miss breaks and that no manager ever instructed him to miss breaks in favor of customer service.

The Court’s Ruling: In granting Apple’s motion to deny class certification, the Court found that Apple presented “substantial” evidence that no company-wide policy contradicted the official rest break policy and that the administration of rest breaks by store management varied from location to location and over time. Finding that common questions of law and fact did not predominate as to any cause of action, the Court granted Apple’s motion to deny class certification.

Insights for California Employers: Apple had a written policy on rest periods that complied with California labor laws. It published that policy by posting that policy at all of its stores. It communicated that policy to all Apple employees. It trained managers to follow that policy. It trained employees to follow that policy. In other words, at all times, Apple exercised due diligence to ensure, as an employer doing business in this state, that it complied with the rest period requirements of the California Labor Code and the California Wage Orders. What return on investment (ROI) did Apple receive for this investment of its time and money? A multi-million dollar class action lawsuit, the type that would financially devastate any business, was defeated. Clearly, legal structure, employee communication and training laid the foundation for a successful outcome in litigation. For any employer, this would be considered a positive outcome. What steps has YOUR business taken to protect ITS interests and prevent this type of financial exposure?