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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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High Court to Review Unpaid Security Checks

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court said Monday that it will look for conflicts in the pursuit of class and collective claims by warehouse workers who fill Amazon orders fighting unpaid security checks.

Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, both of Nevada, worked in Las Vegas-area warehouses of Integrity Staffing Solutions where they filled orders for Amazon.com. Every day at quitting time, Integrity forced the workers to wait in a long line to face a thorough searched and metal detector.

Integrity said that the searches were necessary to cut down on employee theft. The checks could take nearly half an hour at the end of the working day and the employees were not paid for the time.

Busk and Castro filed a federal class action against Integrity in 2010, alleging that the unpaid security sweeps violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law.

They also claimed that the company refused to pay them for their 30-minute lunches, 10 minutes of which they spent walking to and from a cafeteria and going through a security check.

Even at lunch managers allegedly harassed them to "finish their meal period quickly so that they would clock back in on time," the plaintiffs claimed, as it took about 10 minutes out of their lunchtime to do so.

U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt dismissed the case after finding that the plaintiffs had failed to state a valid claim for compensation. Hunt cited several out-of-circuit cases in finding that time spent going through security does not qualify for compensation under the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947.

Hunt also found that the state-law claims presented conflicting class-certification mechanisms since plaintiffs must opt into a collective action under FLSA but must opt out of a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit partly reversed that ruling last year, saying "such actions can peacefully coexist."

Turning to the merits, the panel also found no reason to bar a suit under the Portal-to-Portal Act, which amended FLSA to generally preclude compensation for activities that are "preliminary" or "postliminary" to the "principal activity or activities" that the employee "is employed to perform."

This act contains an exception the act gives for such activities that are "integral and indispensable" to an employee's principal duties, according to the ruling.

The ruling did, however, block the employees form claiming that their lunch breaks violated federal labor law. The Fair Labor and Standards Act does not require employers to pay their workers for lunch breaks, and the plaintiffs failed to show that they were made to do work during their lunch breaks, the court found.

State law may still provide relief for the workers to recoup unpaid wages, the judges added.

The Supreme Court did not issue any comment in granting the board a writ of certiorari Monday, as is its custom.

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