At the heart of a new employment law lawsuit, is the question: should Amazon’s warehouse employees be compensated for a required 30 minute security check? Amazon.com’s warehouses are not only filled with things people love, but also staff workers who box and ship those things. To keep inventory protected from theft, a security check, often taking up to 30 minutes is required. If that check is required, then shouldn’t employees be paid?
The issue of “required overtime” is one that appears quite often in employment law. On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear the argument over whether the 30 minute “check-out” time for Amazon employees should count as part of their paid work time. This is not the first time the major online retailer has been charged with this issue. In 2010 two former employees of temp staffing agency Integrity Staffing Solutions sued the company for back time spent in security line prior to clocking out of they Amazon warehouse shift. According to their case, since the security checks are required, they are therefore part of the job. Amazon employees are subject to the same checks these two employees were.
Amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act
What it comes down to in this case is an amendment that was made to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The 1947 Act says employers do not have to pay for time that is spent for work- related activities – such as getting to or from an office. But the amendment, made nine years after the ruling, further distinguished that if the activity in question is “integral and indispensable” to the principal activities then workers should be paid.
Importance of Amazon Case
The question in the Amazon case is if the security check is “integral and indispensable.” Now that screenings like this are becoming more common in the workplace, the case could have implications for many other similar cases and employers. “There are literally billions and billions of dollars at stake,” says Paul Secunda, director of the Labor & Employment Law program at Marquette University Law School.
Integrity feels it does not owe workers because the screenings are not directly related to the jobs they do. “No court has ever held that ‘not breaking the law’ is a principal job activity for which compensation must be paid,” the company’s lawyers wrote. But the plaintiffs in this suit feel that Integrity could do their part to help the lines move faster – such as hiring a few more inspectors. They feel that was one of the original ideas behind the Fair Labor Standards Act. If companies are forced to pay workers for the time they spend there, then they’re less likely to waste it.