October 16, 2014-Most of the American public is familiar with the internet marketplace known as Amazon.com. What most people didn’t know until last week was that Amazon.com employees are required to pass through mandatory security checkpoints, after their shifts. This mandatory protocol often delays their departure from work, by an average of, 30 minutes per day. This procedure was put into place due to significant company financial losses, which Amazon alleges, is the result of, out of control, employee theft. Employees, as a matter of practice, clock out from work, daily, and then line up to pass through secure check points similar to those utilized at the major airports throughout the country.
Now those same employees have filed a series of lawsuits against Amazon, claiming that the time spent administering these security procedures should be considered part of their employment. Furthermore, they are demanding they be paid up until the point that they have completed their security inspections. They have alleged that Amazon has violated Labor Laws by requiring them to adhere to these practices, without the benefit of pay. They are seeking back pay, as well as a change in policy. Amazon has fired back, vigorously defending the suit on several legal grounds, but more significantly, highlighting the irony that employee behavior, as a class, necessitated the costly procedures be implemented in the first place.
At the heart of the matter will be a legal interpretation of the 1947 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The U.S. Supreme Court will look at the facts, in question, and decide whether the security checkpoints set up by Amazon, and other major companies dealing with employee theft, constitute “integral and indispensable” components of what the workers were paid, by the employer, to do. The classic example cited by the employees is that employers, such as butchers, are required, by law, to pay for the time their employees spend sharpening their tools, as integral to their job. They liken the checkpoint requirement to this scenario. In contrast, employers are not legally required to pay employees for their travel time to and from work. Amazon relies on this premise in defense of its position that the security checkpoint is akin to the ride home.
Whose interpretation is correct? The parties, and the public, will soon discover. While this case involves one company, Amazon.com, the results may significant consequences on the finances of many U.S. companies. The additional expense of increased base wages, plus the, potential, impact on overtime wages could lead to increased consumer prices, or a decrease in hiring, or, although, highly unlikely, a dismantling of the security checkpoints, entirely, as more cost prohibitive than the theft they are trying to eliminate.
If you, or someone you know, is the victim of wage violations or is owed back pay, please contact the New York Employment Attorneys at Neil H. Greenberg & Associates. Our attorneys will help you to fight labor violations and get compensation for your work. Call us today at 516-228-5100!