A few years ago, contract workers at a Nevada Amazon warehouse filed a lawsuit in federal court against Amazon and their employer, Integrity Staffing Solutions, a contractor for Amazon. The lawsuit claimed the workers were entitled to unpaid wages for time spent waiting in line for security screenings before breaks and after shifts. Amazon requires these screenings for inventory control purposes. While the
lines could be long during regular working times, during the holiday seasons the lines increased significantly, sometimes lasting nearly half an hour or longer after a busy shift.
Because Amazon requires these security screenings as a condition of employment, the workers believe they should be paid for their time while standing in line. Last year the case made its way through the court system up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruled that employees should be paid for the time they spend after their shifts in security lines. The United States’ Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case. The Court will be looking at Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to make its determination. But
Issue At Hand
The contracted workers are seeking payment for the time they spent in mandatory screening lines each day. But Integrity Staffing Solutions, Amazon and the Court are looking at a bigger question. The question is whether time spent in mandatory security procedures after the end of a shift requires payment or whether it is non-compensable.
The FLSA is a federal law regulating minimum wages and maximum hours in employment. Under the FLSA, employers are only required to pay for “hours worked.” As a result employers and employees occasionally disagree on what “hours worked” means. For instance, short breaks are considered part of “hours worked” because they helps productivity and employees have a right to short, paid break periods. On the other hand, time spent commuting to work or time waiting to clock in and out or eating a meal are not included in “hours worked.” Even though all of those actions are required as a condition of employment, and in the case of a meal break is legally required, they do not meet the requirement for paid time.
Integrity Staffing Solutions claims the time spent waiting for mandatory security screenings is similar to waiting in line to clock in and out. In a sense, it is very similar because the employees are actually waiting in line, except that they have to clock-out prior to joining the line. The FLSA determines what “waiting time” is on a case by case situation. But generally, it looks to see if the employee is waiting to begin work, like clocking in or commuting, or if the employee is waiting for work to begin, like waiting for a meeting to start or a client to arrive. In this case, Amazon’s contract workers are neither waiting to begin work nor waiting for work to begin, but they are still required to wait. The Court’s decision could lead to major changes in employer post-shift security screening procedures.
If you have questions or concerns about your wages or overtime, an experienced Washington employment law attorney can help.