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Supreme Court to Hear Amazon Warehouse Staffing Case

Should workers leaving Amazon’s warehouses be paid for the time they stand in line to go through security pat downs? The Supreme Court will rule on whether a lawsuit to decide the matter can proceed, granting a petition for writ of certiorari on Monday in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, which deals with a “claim for overtime pay by workers for the after-hours screening as a measure to prevent workplace theft.”

The Seattle Times said workers had sued in 2010 to receive pay for the time they wait in security screening lines before and after they start their shifts, some days spending nearly 30 minutes to pass through security checks. Amazon uses a third-party agency, Integrity Staffing Solutions, to hire the warehouse workers.

“Amazon requires everyone entering and leaving its warehouses to pass through the security screens to prevent theft,” the newspaper wrote. Indeed, in this publication’s series, Amazon Confidential, a temp worker at one of Amazon’s warehouses over the holiday shopping season said they had to go through security that included metal detectors, pat downs, personal searches “off the clock” (unpaid), sometimes standing in line for 15 to 30 minutes before allowed to leave the building.

Integrity Staffing Solutions filed the writ on October 3, 2013 after a federal appeals court ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

The question presented before the high court is as follows:

“Respondents are warehouse workers who seek back pay, overtime, and double damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for time spent in security screenings after the end of their work shifts. Relying on an unbroken line of authority from other jurisdictions, the district court dismissed Respondents’ claims because security screenings are quintessential “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities that are non-compensable under the FLSA pursuant to the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that time spent in security screenings was compensable under the FLSA because it was “necessary to (Respondents’) primary work as warehouse employees.” That holding squarely conflicts with decisions from the Second and Eleventh Circuits holding that time spent in security screenings is not subject to the FLSA because it is not “integral and indispensable” to employees’ principal job activities.

“The question presented is whether time spent in security screenings is compensable under the FLSA, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act.”


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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.