The US District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that Amazon must face a proposed class action lawsuit seeking compensation for time spent undergoing mandatory post-shift security screenings, according to a JDSupra post.
The case. According to the lawsuit, Vaccaro v. Amazon.com.dedc LLC, Amazon requires employees to wait among hundreds of other warehouse employees to pass through security at the end of their shifts, and if Amazon determines that additional scrutiny is necessary, an employee must then submit to a mandatory secondary screening.
The lawsuit also alleged that the mandatory screenings, vastness of Amazon’s parking lot, and remoteness of its premises effectively prevented the employees from leaving the place of work during meal breaks. Before employees are permitted to leave Amazon’s premises for their 30-minute meal break, but after clocking out for it, they must undergo the same security screening process as is required at the end of the workday. Thus, the lawsuit alleged that Amazon similarly violated New Jersey Wage and Hour Law by failing to count time spent on meal breaks during the course of the workday as “hours worked” for purposes of calculating wages.
Precedent. The US Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that time workers spend in a security screen was not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In Integrity Staffing v. Busk, staffing firm workers sought payment for their time spent waiting in security screening lines when leaving the warehouse of staffing client Amazon.com after each shift. The case was filed in 2010, and a federal court in Nevada ruled in favor of Integrity in July 2011; however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 reversed the lower court’s decision related to time spent in the security line, ruling it was an integral part of the employees’ work. The case then went to the US Supreme Court, which rejected the Ninth Circuit’s decision, saying the screenings were not an integral part of the workers’ jobs, and therefore are non-compensable.
State law. New Jersey regulations define “hours worked” as all the time the employee is required to be at his or her place of work or on duty. The court concluded that a “place of work” is any place where an activity is performed that is controlled or required by the employer and such activity serves to primarily benefit the employer. The court ruled that the security screenings alleged meet that criteria because the activity is controlled by and is for the primary benefit of Amazon.
The District Court, however, did rule in Amazon’s favor on the matter of meal breaks and held that unlike the post-shift screenings, the act of undergoing the screening during the workday is a result of the employee’s choice to take their meal outside the premises and serves primarily to benefit the employee.
Developing state law. The issue of security screening and compensation continues to develop as a matter of state law. After a February ruling in California, Apple Inc. must pay store employees for time spent in security lines, waiting for managers and/or security personnel to check their personnel bags and cell phones for possible theft.