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Us Supreme Court Rules Amazon Employees Are Not Entitled to Overtime Pay For Post-Shift Security Screening

On December 9, 2014, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that contract workers at an Amazon warehouse were not entitled to be paid for the time during which they were required to wait in line for a security check each time they existed the workplace at the end of the day. Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk.

The workers at the Amazon warehouse were required to stand in line for a security check at the end of their daily shift. The workers had to wait in line for about 25 minutes each day. They were not paid for this screening time.

The Supreme Court, in reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, said that the screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the workers’ job, which involved retrieving products from warehouse shelves and packaging them for delivery to Amazon’s customers. Thus, the Court ruled that no extra pay was required. The Supreme Court said that the appeals court had “erred by focusing on whether an employer required a particular activity.” Instead, the correct test is whether the activity is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform:

We hold that an activity is integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform—and thus compensable under the FLSA—if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities. Because the employees’ time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing Integrity Staffing’s security screenings does not meet these criteria, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court’s decision turned on the meaning of a 1947 law, the Portal-to-Portal Act, which provides that companies need not pay for “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities, meaning ones that take place before and after the workday proper. The Supreme Court interpreted the law in 1956 in Steiner v. Mitchell to require pay only for tasks that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workmen are employed.”

The decision is being seen as a big win for employers in the retail business. Indeed, there have been 13 class-action lawsuits against Amazon and other companies involving more than 400,000 employees and seeking hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

 

For questions concerning this issue or any other employment-related issues,
please contact Claire Saady at 813-909-8855

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