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Apple accused of dodging fair pay in class action lawsuit

Often said to work its employees to the bone, Apple is now the subject of a class action lawsuit that claims it deliberately misclassified technicians to avoid paying for overtime and supplying fair working hours.

Filed early this week by former Apple network engineer David Walsh in a San Diego court, the 40-page suit claims that Apple knowingly violated California's Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission requirements by "systematically" misclassifying Walsh and fellow technicians as management.

The simple creation of a management-like title for workers such as Walsh lets Apple call on them as much as it likes without having to pay overtime rates, according to the complaint, even though the actual roles consist of nothing more than installing and maintaining networks. Walsh during his 12-year tenure not only had no authority over where he could go but explicitly had to receive permission from the true executives and site staff.

Apple has allegedly created hundreds of seemingly unique positions that are actually subtle variants on the same role, making it difficult for employees to take action and demand better pay or working conditions. Those with purportedly advanced titles have ultimately done the same work as those with more ordinary positions.

"One such example is placing the descriptor 'Senior' before the title 'Network Engineer,' when in fact all such Network Engineers perform the same work," Walsh's attorneys at Blumenthal & Nordrehaug claim.

The conditions themselves were especially rough, the complaint notes. While officially scheduled for eight hours of work per day, he would often be told to maintain the network "well into the night" and was on call at all times of the day, with many calls arriving after 11PM or on weekends. In many cases, Walsh not only had to avoid leisure that couldn't usually afford interruption, such as watching a movie, but in many cases had to put off essential tasks such as seeing a doctor or even having a meal.

Walsh, who is seeking class action status through his suit, wants Apple not only to properly classify network engineers but to pay compensation to those who missed out on overtime pay —including the equivalent of two hours' pay for each full day of work where a technician wasn't given time for a meal.

Apple seldom comments on lawsuits in progress and has remained silent on Walsh's dispute.