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Amazon Prime Time – Should Employees Be Paid to Wait in Security Lines? Supreme Court to Decide.

Written by Jillian Collins

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral argument on the issue of whether employers must compensate employees for time they spend going through mandatory security checks, which are aimed to curb employee theft.

The case involves a class of former employees of an Amazon contractor, Integrity Security Systems, who are seeking back pay for time they spent in security lines at the beginning and end of their shifts working in Amazon’s warehouses in Nevada. Integrity required the employees to go through metal detectors on the way into and out of the warehouse to prevent theft.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay their workers for pre- and post-shift activities that are “integral and indispensable” to an employee’s principal work activities. The employees claim that they met this standard and therefore, Integrity should have paid them for the approximately 30 minutes of time it took to clear the screenings each day. Integrity says they shouldn’t have to pay because the screening time was nothing more than part of their employees’ travel time to and from work.

The Supreme Court will resolve an issue that has split the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against the 11th and 2nd Circuits and it will resolve many other outstanding cases – indeed, after the 9th Circuit ruled in the employees’ favor, employees at other Amazon distribution centers filed class actions in Washington, Kentucky and Tennessee. Apple also faces a similar lawsuit based on its mandatory bag searches of retail employees. The decision to hear this case comes on the heels of the Court’s recent decision finding that employers generally don’t have to pay unionized workers for the time they spend putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) personal protective gear.

The Supreme Court’s decision would also have wide-ranging effects for many industries in the post-9/11 world where employee security screens have become increasingly common.

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