Justices suggest security check not essential part of work day

"You would not pay anyone to just go through security," Justice Samuel Alito said, suggesting Amazon workers should not be paid for post-shift screening.
By Frances Burns  |  Oct. 8, 2014 at 2:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court could cost retailers millions of dollars if it rules that Amazon warehouse workers must be paid for a post-shift security check.

But at oral arguments Wednesday, many of the justices appeared to doubt that the screening, which can take up to 25 minutes, is an essential part of the work day. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to pay only for tasks that are "integral and indispensable" to the job, even if the unpaid activity is required.

"You would not pay anyone to just go through security," Justice Samuel Alito said.

Employees at Amazon warehouses in Nevada sued Integrity Staffing Solutions, which contracts with Amazon to provide staff there. The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have sided with management, along with the U.S. Labor Department.

Amazon, CVS and other large retail chains face class-action lawsuits that could cost them millions if the Supreme Court rules for the workers.

But most of the justices who spoke during the hearing appeared to take management's side. They included Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia along with Alito.

Justice Elena Kagan suggested the security screening is an essential part of the job because of Amazon's elaborate inventory control system that depends on knowing "where every toothbrush in the warehouse is."

Justice Stephen Breyer said the Obama administration's reading of the law is critical.

"They are saying you lose," he told a lawyer for the employees.

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