Amazon workers' lawsuit to be heard by US Supreme Court

Everyday after work, warehouse employees have to wait in long bag-check lines to make sure they're not toting stolen goods -- some workers want to be paid for that time.

A worker loading orders in one of Amazon's warehouses. Amazon

The US Supreme Court selects very few cases to hear, but it appears a case involving Amazon workers is on its way to the country's highest court.

The Supreme Court decided on Monday to hear a case about employees having to wait in long lines to go through security checks at the end of their shifts, according to Reuters. The case will address whether the e-commerce giant should pay workers for this time spent, which can last as long as 30 minutes.

The employees involved in this case worked at Amazon warehouses in Nevada; they are former temporary workers hired by Amazon contractor Integrity Staffing Solutions. The security checks were carried out to make sure they didn't steal any goods from the warehouses.

Amazon isn't the only company that has been criticized for not paying workers to wait in post-work security check lines. Apple has a policy of requiring its retail store employees to undergo two mandatory bag searches per day, which became grounds for a class action lawsuit last summer.

If these cases involved a different type industry, the issue might be something that a workers' union would negotiate. However, tech companies in the US remain basically union-free. In fact, in January Amazon workers decided against forming their first US union.

In a brief filed with the court, Amazon contractor Integrity said that post-work duties do not have to be paid for under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), according to Reuters.

"Security screenings are indistinguishable from many other tasks that have been found non-compensable under the FLSA, such as waiting to punch in and out on the time clock, walking from the parking lot to the work place, waiting to pick up a paycheck, or waiting to pick up protective gear before donning it for a work shift," the brief read.

The Amazon lawsuit was first brought in 2010 and then moved up to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last year, according to Reuters. The appeals court ruled in April that the suit could go forward. Now, it'll be up to the Supreme Court to decide on the issue.

CNET contacted Amazon for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

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About the author

Dara Kerr is a staff writer for CNET focused on the sharing economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado where she developed an affinity for collecting fool's gold and spirit animals.

 

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