Published Date: 11/17/2014
By Pat Rountree
You likely have heard about the staffing agency employees who worked at Amazon and filed a class action lawsuit because they were not paid for time at the end of the workday to go through a screening process. The employees worked in the Amazon warehouse and pulled inventory to fill online orders. At the end of the day after they completed their jobs, they were required to go through a screening process and empty pockets after they had clocked out as part of Amazon’s security and loss prevention measures. For some employees, the waiting time was as much as 25 minutes. The employees viewed this as time being controlled by the company and costing them as much as two hours of pay per week.
The Fair Labor Standards Act became law in 1938 and originally was interpreted to require employers to cover all hours that the employee was on the premises and under the control of the employer as hours worked requiring wages, even if the activities were not a part of their work.
The Portal to Portal Act of 1947 was enacted by Congress to clarify that preliminary and postliminary activities that are not an integral part of the principle activity of productive work are not considered hours worked. Other examples that fall into this category are the regular home to work commute, waiting to clock in and out, and changing clothes unless changing into and out of protective clothing or special clothing required for the job.
Following is a link to an elaws Advisor that provides examples of principal activities that are currently considered compensable: http://j.mp/DL-PA.
The employees’ suit was filed in federal district court in 2010. The court decision favored the employer, and was based on the intent of the Portal to Portal Act and other court decisions in other circuits that have deemed such screening of employees after finishing their work as non-compensable. However, on appeal, the 9th Circuit federal court reversed the decision and said the employees should be compensated.
This reversal and contradictory determination of the court in the face of long-standing precedent following the Portal-to-Portal Act has resulted in a number of other class action suits by employees (and attorneys) hoping to reap large settlements for back pay, overtime and double damages.
The US Supreme Court is slated to rule on this case in 2015. Obviously this could have a major impact on the costs for employers and could affect other preliminary and postliminary activities. We will keep you informed of this and other cases applicable to employers.
If you have FLSA questions, please call CAI's Advice & Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.