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Supreme Court to Hear Amazon Labor Case

You don’t think of an ecommerce marketplace of today as having workplace issues that sound like a throwback to the labor movement. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a contentious case about Amazon warehouse workers that sound like something from days long ago.

Workers sued the employment agency that Amazon uses to staff its warehouses. The Supreme Court granted cert for “Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk” in March. The case deals with a “claim for overtime pay by workers for the after-hours screening as a measure to prevent workplace theft.”

Here is the question the high court will consider:

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.

Bloomberg has a good rundown of the case, reporting that 37-year-old Jesse Busk filed the lawsuit seeking back pay after working in an Amazon.com warehouse in North Las Vegas.

Busk claimed that workers had to spend considerable time going through a screening process, including metal detectors, to make sure they weren’t stealing, but that workers didn’t get paid for those hours.

According to KPLU, Amazon.com provided it with a statement that said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation, “but that data show that employees walk through post-shift security screening with little or no wait.”

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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/.