Should Amazon Warehouse Workers Be Paid To Wait For Security Checks?

These people are standing in line for iPhones, but many are probably paid. (nikony13)

These people are standing in line for iPhones, but many are probably paid. (nikony13)

It makes sense that people who work in Amazon warehouses have to go through security screenings when they leave work: the job is not very well paid and consists of boxing up an unfathomable variety of items at a fast pace. The Supreme Court will decide whether the workers’ employer––temp agencies that supply the warehouse workforce––should pay them for time waiting in line for screenings.

Bloomberg Businessweek points out that there’s a lot of money at stake here, since the practice of screening employees on their way out the door is becoming more common. The problem isn’t the screening requirement itself, but employees’ time spent waiting in line off the clock. With few screeners available, they wait in line for up to half an hour every day.

Warehouses wouldn’t compensate their workers for up to two and a half extra hours of work every week, of course. They would hire a few more screeners to get workers through the lines faster, but only if the employer had a financial incentive to do so.

At stake is an important Fair Labor Standards Act amendment from the post-World War II era, which spelled out that employer don’t have to pay for all work-related activities. That’s why you don’t get paid for your time spent commuting, for example. However, later Supreme Court cases found that workers do need to be paid if the task they’re performing is “integral and indispensable” to their jobs. For example, time that butchers spend sharpening their knives should be on the clock.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case next Wednesday and issue an opinion in 2015.

Amazon Warehouse Workers Want to Be Paid for Waiting in Line [Bloomberg Businessweek]

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