Wait, Wait, Don’t Pay Them: Amazon Employees Lose Suit

Wait, Wait, Don’t Pay Them: Amazon Employees Lose Suit

‘Twas a few weeks before Christmas, when … the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the employer in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, et al. The court ruled earlier this week that the temp agency did not have to compensate Amazon warehouse employees for their wait time for anti-theft security screening at the end of the day.

Per The New York Times article, Nevada warehouse employees Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro filed the case, “seeking to represent a class of workers and to be paid for the time it took to remove their wallets, keys and belts and to pass through metal detectors.”

Believing that the screenings benefited Amazon and were a necessary part of the warehouse employees’ jobs, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit permitted the case to move forward. Justice Clarence Thomas disagreed with this decision.

On behalf of the court, he wrote that because the screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ jobs of retrieving and packaging products for shipment, no additional compensation was necessary.

“This view is consistent with a 1951 Department of Labor opinion letter, which found noncompensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act both a pre-shift screening conducted for employee safety and a post-shift search conducted to prevent employee theft. The Ninth Circuit’s test, which focused on whether the particular activity was required by the employer rather than whether it was tied to the productive work that the employee was employed to perform, would sweep into ‘principal activities,’ the very activities that the Portal-to-Portal Act was designed to exclude from compensation.”

For Justice Thomas, the Ninth Circuit’s mistake was “focusing on whether an employer required a particular activity.” Instead, it should have been on the “productive work that the employee is employed to perform.”

“We hold that an activity is integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform — and thus compensable under the FLSA — if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities. Because the employees’ time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing Integrity Staffing’s security screenings does not meet these criteria, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred in the court’s opinion and Justice Elena Kagan joined her.

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