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6th Circuit: Should Amazon Pay Workers Waiting For Security Screenings?

Employees select and dispatch items in an Amazon 'fulfilment centre' warehouse
By Laura Temme, Esq. on November 21, 2019

Mandatory security checks are becoming a normal part of the workday for many, especially those working at big corporations like Amazon. But when it comes time to turn in your time card, does time spent in the security line count as hours worked?

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to weigh in on whether employees should be paid for time spent waiting to go through security.

Cash for Waiting

It's a question of first impression for Pennsylvania's highest court, stemming from a class-action lawsuit claiming several practices at Amazon's Breinigsville warehouse violate state minimum wage laws. Amazon requires employees at the warehouse to undergo anti-theft security screenings after they clocked out at the end of their shift. Workers must go through metal detectors, and can even have their bags searched before they are allowed to go home. The parties are in dispute over how long the process actually takes, but it's easy to see how it could lead to a significant delay in getting out the door.

State Laws Can Go Beyond FLSA

Amazon claims its security is not a matter of public importance since few (if any) employers in Pennsylvania employ similar security measures. However, the Sixth Circuit panel disagreed, finding that Pennsylvania law requires compensation for a broader range of activities than the Federal Labor Standards Act. And since the issue is unsettled, this is the right time for review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

This isn't the first time Amazon's security measures have been in the news, however. A year ago, the Sixth Circuit found a case by claimants in Nevada also had potential merit. Amazon tried to get the Supreme Court involved this fall, but so far SCOTUS has declined to take up the issue.

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