Boots & Sabers

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0548, 10 Dec 14

SCOTUS Rules on Amazon Case

I’m a little surprised that this was unanimous, but it is a good ruling.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that warehouse workers who fill orders for retail giant Amazon don’t have to be paid for time spent waiting to pass through security checks at the end of their shifts.

The unanimous decision is a victory for the growing number of retailers and other companies that routinely screen workers to prevent employee theft. The justices said federal law does not require companies to pay employees for the extra time because it is unrelated to their primary job duties.

Some workers at Amazon contractor Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., claim they wait up to 25 minutes to clear security before they can go home. Amazon has disputed those claims.



0548, 10 December 2014


  1. Jason

    I’m not sure about this one. The reason is this sentence “The justices said federal law does not require companies to pay employees for the extra time because it is unrelated to their primary job duties.”

    I’m not employed by Amazon, and don’t know anyone who is, but I would imagine that passing through the metal detector prior to leaving the company property is not optional – and so it is directly related to their employment.

  2. scott

    I agree with Jason. Solid reasoning. And I would add that more generally it just feels like another tilt toward less power for working people and more power for big business. Is there no end?

  3. Owen

    The employment contract is a simple one in which one person gives his or her labor and skills in exchange for compensation – usually, but not always, in the form of money. As such, an employee is entitled to be compensated for every moment he or she is providing that labor or skill to the benefit of his or her employer. Every moment.

    I compare it to my own employment. There are times that I have to dress up in a suit, drive or fly somewhere, walk to and fro, etc. Sometimes I have to wait for security at various buildings, airports, etc. I am not entitled to any compensation from my employer until I actually begin providing value by doing the job I am being paid to do. Neither are they.


  4. Jason

    Owen, I think there’s quite a difference between what you describe as your job duties and employees who are forced to walk through a metal detector at the end of their shift. The scenario you present simply does not relate.

    I bet it would be very trivial for a company requiring security checkpoints prior to departure to move any time clocks to the other side of the checkpoint.

    We’re not talking about being asked to voluntarily comply with recommendations – such as turning off PC’s or cleaning a desk prior to departure, this was about an employer forcing compliance with a policy, and to me that makes it a “primary job duty”.

  5. Paulie Walnuts

    Not piling on here, but Owen’s situation of traveling vs. the Amazon employees is an apples and oranges comparison. I’m not sure precisely what Owen does, but it’s likely an exempt (salary position) under FLSA. Amazon warehouse employees are non-exempt (hourly) roles, and when we have those employees traveling for training and seminars, they are “on the clock” for the travel time at airports and whatnot.

    With that, I don’t agree with Amazon’s stance. My first role out of college was working for one of Amazon’s biggest drop shippers, and since we carried high value consumer electronics (cameras, iPods, memory cards, headphones, etc.) employee pilferage was a risk. We did put screening in place at the distribution center entry/exit points, but we also placed time clocks outside the DC so the employee would clock out after they passed security.

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