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Amazon employees say they weren’t paid for long security checks

A question of U.S. employment law that some observers say is 80 years in the making has arrived before the Supreme Court. Anyone who has ever not been paid for a work-related task, and believes they should have been, will likely take a strong interest in the outcome of this case.

The plaintiffs are former employees of online retail giant Amazon. They worked in some of the company’s warehouses. Before leaving after their shifts, the plaintiffs had to undergo security screenings, which Amazon required to reduce workplace theft.

Standing in line and going through the screening each day was an unavoidable part of their jobs, the plaintiffs argue. But Amazon did not pay them for their time. Their lawsuit says that the contractor in charge of the screenings did not provide sufficient service to keep the lines moving reasonably quickly. As a result, it was often half an hour before the plaintiffs got through the screenings.

This case is just one of a dozen class-action lawsuits that have been filed that represent more than 400,000 Amazon employees in this wage dispute. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case.

Issues like this, in which employees are forced to put on protective gear or do something related to their work, but not allowed to punch in while doing so, are common in many jobs.

Just when a worker must start to get paid, and when she does not, has long been unclear and arguably inconsistent. While employees don’t get paid for walking from the parking lot to the workplace, they do for putting protective gear on in certain professions.

These questions often involve a few minutes each day. But those few minutes add up.

Source: Portland Press Herald, “Amazon faces lawsuit over workers’ wages,” Drew Harwell, Oct. 8, 2014