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Aug 19, 2022
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Apple’s $30 million ‘bag search’ lawsuit finally gets approval

Apple retail workers in California are set to receive an average pay-out of around $1,328 after a US District Court judge approved a $30 million compensation pot first set last year over its controversial ‘bag search’ policy. Apple demanded that staff have their bags searched at the end of each day to ensure goods weren’t being stolen. But employees would often have to wait up to 45 minutes after their shifts had ended – time for which they would not be paid for. The $30 million settlement, which Apple agreed to last November, has now been approved by U.S. District Court Judge, William Alsup. In a statement, the judge said: “The Court finds that the settlement offers significant monetary recovery to all participating settlement class members, and finds that such recovery is fair, reasonable, and adequate when balanced against the risk of further litigation related to damages issues.” Apparently, Apple CEO Tim Cook was unaware of the bag-search policy. When two employees complained directly to Cook about the issue, he forwarded the email to his HR executives, asking “Is this true?”

Disgruntled employee accused of shutting down police website over pay dispute

If you’re going to upset an employee, make sure it isn’t your IT expert with the power to shut down your organization’s web services. That’s what officials in the town of Newton, Boston, are realising, after it emerged former police department information technology director, Steven Smith, was being investigated for reportedly taking down the department’s website in late June-July. According to a report in The Boston Globe, Smith was embroiled in a pay dispute, claiming he was owed $137,000 in accrued compensatory time. After the request was refused, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said “Mr. Smith retaliated and “essentially shut down the NPD website, a vital resource for the residents of the City of Newton and those who may have business with NPD.” Access controls to the website – – were granted to Smith only. The city has since created a new police department website. The investigation is currently ongoing.

Beware the ‘quiet quitters’

Employers and HRDs are being forewarned about the rise of so-called quiet quitters’ – those who have mentally (rather than physically), quit their jobs, by only doing the bare minimum. The concept was recently popularized by a video on TikTok by Zaid Khan, which has been seen millions of times. On it he said: “You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.” The trend is backed up by recent Korn Ferry research which finds half of white-collar workers said they’re turning down projects more frequently now than before the health crisis. The same research also found 62% said they felt more emboldened to insist on a better work-life balance since the labor crunch began. The “quiet quitter” mentality is also claimed to be driven by the emergence of Generation Z entering the workforce during the pandemic’s labor shortages. “Everybody’s thinking, ‘They’re not going to fire me because my warm body is better than nobody’,” said Mark Royal, senior client partner for Korn Ferry.

AT&T workers oppose return to office push

Workers at AT&T – the world’s largest telecommunication company – are being forced back to the office ahead of an agreed deadline of March 2023, according to union, Communications Workers of America. An article in The Guardian reports the case of Sara Fry, an AT&T service representative in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who said her department was told they are being brought back to the office as early as 21 September 2022. The same report also presents Val Williams, an AT&T worker and union steward for the Communications Workers of America in Houston, Texas, who says she was forced to return to work in the office in April 2022. AT&T workers have now started a petition demanding that the company makes working from home a permanent option for workers.

Starbucks demands National Labor Relations Board suspends union elections

Coffee giant, Starbucks – which has recently seen recently seen a slew of stores demand union representation – has appealed to the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), for it to temporarily suspend all union elections at its United States stores. It’s accusing the agency of interfering with, and influencing, election results at some of its cafe locations. Starbucks claims it is helping union group, Starbucks Workers United, win elections by manipulating the voting process. In a letter sent to the NLRB, Starbucks claims St Louis labor board officials helped pro-union workers vote in person at its office when they did not receive mail-in ballots, even though Starbucks and the union had both agreed that store elections would be handled via mail-in ballot. “Because observers were not present, no one can be sure who appeared to vote, whether NLRB personnel had inappropriate communications with the voters, told them how to vote, showed them how to vote or engaged in other undisclosed conduct,” Starbucks wrote in its letter. Some 314 US Starbucks locations have seen workers petition the NLRB to hold union elections since late last year. More than 220 of those Starbucks stores have voted to unionize.

Court rejects rule baring US court workers’ political speech

A Trump-instigated policy which barred federal court employees from attending campaign events, giving money to candidates or engaging in other off-duty partisan political activities, has been deemed a violation of their free-speech rights according to a US appeals court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that any fears that the court system’s integrity would be undermined were “speculative” and did not justify restrictions on political speech. “The government cannot condition public employment on the complete surrender of a citizen’s First Amendment rights,” circuit Judge Justin Walker wrote. The rule preventing partisan activities had first come into effect in 2018. It banned donating to candidates, displaying campaign bumper stickers or yard signs, attending fundraisers or posting about political candidates on social media. The restrictions mirrored ones that have long been in place for judicial employees who work in federal courthouses.

More gloom around people’s desire to quit their jobs

New research released by McKinsey adds yet more gloom for HRDs desperately trying to attract and retain people. The data finds 40% of workers say they are actively considering quitting their jobs in the next three-six months. Commenting on the results, Bonnie Dowling, one of the authors of the research said: “This isn’t just a passing trend, or a pandemic-related change to the labor market. There’s been a fundamental shift in workers’ mentality, and their willingness to prioritize other things in their life beyond whatever job they hold.” She added: “We’re never going back to how things were in 2019.” The researched surveyed more than 13,000 people across the globe. It also revealed that around 48% of people who had already quit their jobs had pursued new opportunities in completely different industries. Of those who quit with no job to go to, 47% returned to the workforce, while the rest found gig work, temporary work, or started their own business.


This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.
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