A recent Puget Sound Business Journal article details Amazon.com employees’ recent lawsuit over off-the-clock security checks. The employees have filed a federal lawsuit against Amazon for back pay for time spent each work day in security screening lines before breaks and at the end of their shifts. Because Amazon requires the daily searches, employees believe they should be paid for the additional time they are required to be at the warehouse standing in line. The lawsuit was brought by warehouse workers in multiple states and could become a class action if certified by the District Court in Seattle. Class action status would allow other warehouse workers, including those provided by staffing agencies, who lost time and money from the security checks, to receive back pay if Amazon is found to have violated federal laws.
Amazon requires workers to go through security screenings at the start of their breaks and at the end of their shifts. These security screenings are meant to reduce theft, or shrinkage, which allows Amazon to keep costs lower than their competitors. Workers must pass through metal detectors and have their bags inspected. There are no specific laws regarding workplace searches. However, workplace searches frequently raise privacy concerns and should be conducted with reasonable expectations of privacy in mind. Since Amazon requires security checks, employees know that they are going to be screened and that it is an expected condition of their employment. That said, taking the searches beyond metal detectors and possible bag inspections without additional cause could result in privacy and discrimination complaints.
Lunch and Break Time Pay
Federal law does not require break or lunch times, but does regulate employers who do offer break times. Under labor regulations if short break times are offered, they are considered as work time. If lunch time breaks are offered, they are not to be considered as work time. Washington State law does require Amazon and other employers to provide paid 10 minute breaks to its employees and an unpaid 30 minute lunch break. One of the reasons Amazon’s employees have brought the lawsuit is because waiting in line for screening is considered part of an employee’s break time, which cuts into their required break period.
Additionally, since employees are required to clock out before standing in line for lunch break and end of work security checks, employees believe they are still working, yet they are not getting paid and are losing time for lunch and personal activities. Wait times for security checks are estimated to be 25 minutes on average at the end of shift. An additionally 25 minutes each day would result in an extra two hours and five minutes of work time each week. If the courts find that Amazon’s requirement for security screenings is part of an employee’s work duties and that employees are required to clock out prior to screening, it could mean Amazon’s employees are entitled to compensation for unpaid wages.
If you have unpaid wage concerns contact an employment law attorney to discuss your options.