Risk & Compliance

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Amazon Bid to Block Worker Suit

Warehouse employees say they should be paid for time spent in security screenings.
Lauren MuskettOctober 7, 2019
U.S. Supreme Court Denies Amazon Bid to Block Worker Suit

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a petition by Amazon and a contractor, Integrity Staffing Solutions, that sought to dismiss a lawsuit from warehouse workers who were seeking pay for the time they spent in post-shift security screenings.

In their 2010 lawsuit, the workers said the screenings, which they called “post-9/11 type of airport security screenings,” took 25 minutes to complete and were designed to prevent theft by employees.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled that, under a 1947 law that amended the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees at Amazon warehouses did not have a right to be paid for the screenings, under federal law, but last year, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the workers could still pursue their claims under Nevada’s wage-and-hour law.

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Workers in Nevada had also alleged the security screenings had resulted in their being “unable to take a full 30-minute uninterrupted lunch period” as required by state law.

The 6th Circuit ruled that the time warehouse employees spent in the screenings constituted “work” under Nevada law, and said “hours worked” under Nevada law “all time worked by the employee at the direction of the employer, including time worked by the employee that is outside the scheduled hours of work of the employee.”

The court also said the security screenings were work under Nevada law because they were required by the employer and were solely for the benefit of the employer and its customers.

Amazon, in its appeal, said the decision by the circuit court could create a “road map” for interpreting statutes in other states.

The ruling came on the first day of the Supreme Court’s new term. Justice Clarence Thomas was not in attendance due to an unspecified illness, but Chief Justice John Roberts said Thomas would still participate in deciding three cases before the court.