Updated below with Amazon statement.
In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected an effort by Amazon’s fulfillment center workers to be paid for the time they spend in security screenings after each workday.
The court’s opinion, by Justice Clarence Thomas, found that the claims for payment did not meet the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, because the required security screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ principal activities.
The case involved employees who worked in an Amazon fulfillment center via Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc., which was the named party in the case. Integrity petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling.
“Because the employees’ time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing Integrity Staffing’s security screenings does not meet these criteria, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals,” reads the court’s opinion.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained, “The screenings may, as the Ninth Circuit observed below, have been in some way related to the work that the employees performed in the warehouse … but the employees could skip the screenings altogether without the safety or effectiveness of their principal activities being substantially impaired.”
The workers, who were based at one of Amazon’s Las Vegas-area warehouses, filed a lawsuit in 2010 claiming that the unpaid security checks violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
According to the plaintiffs, the required screenings took up to 25 minutes at the end of the day, but Amazon disputes that assertion. A company spokesperson says in a statement today, “The allegations in this case were simply not true – data shows that employees typically walk through security with little or no wait, and Amazon has a global process that ensures the time employees spend waiting in security is less than 90 seconds.”
Today’s decision could impact other companies on questions of payment for duties not related directly to regular work assignments. Companies like Apple, J.C. Penney, and CVS Health are fighting similar court claims.