On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court ruled that workers at Amazon warehouses do not have a federal right to be compensated for the time lost during post-shift security checks. Amazon is now sheltered from lawsuits claiming over $100 million in compensation.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Amazon.com Inc’ former workers’ claims against the retailer’s main staffing company, Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc, that is believed to be backed up by Obama administration.
Other retailers may also benefit from this ruling. Companies such as Apple Inc, JC Penney Co., TJX Cos., CVS Health Corp and Ross Stores are also facing a flood of complaints from their employees at their distribution facilities or stores.
All these companies claim that after work security checks are essential to prevent theft out of their warehouses and stores. But, their workers say that the only thing stolen is their free time.
In Integrity case, plaintiffs said that in two Nevada warehouses employees had to wait in line for a security check nearly 25 minutes. Amazon representatives said that this was not true, since in Amazon’s warehouses the post-shift check is designed to take at most 90 seconds per employee.
Former Amazon employees based their cases on two federal acts – 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act and 1947 Portal-to-Portal Statute. The 1938 federal act gives all workers the right to compensation for their “principal activities”, while the 1947 labor statute offers limited compensation for all pre- and post-shift activities if these activities were “integral and indispensable” to the work itself.
However, Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas said that security checks weren’t “integral and indispensable”.
“The screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packaging them for shipment,”
justice Thomas said.
Also, justice Thomas added that Integrity didn’t have to make security checks more effective and save workers’ time since these issues were presented to the employer and discussed at the bargaining table and not in a federal court.
Integrity claimed that security checks at the end of the day were similar to post-shift checking out, which the Labor Department doesn’t view it as compensable.
It seems that the federal court released Integrity and Amazon from back pay obligations amounting over $100 million to about 400.000 workers.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said that the ruling that Amazon didn’t steal workers time left thousands of them “short-changed a half hour per day.” They will, however, be able to pursue their claims at state courts and even win.