Although the Supreme Court is very choosy about which cases it hears, a case involving Amazon workers that could affect tens of thousands of people or more, is on its way to the Supreme Court. The Court decided earlier this month to hear a case about employees waiting in long lines to go through security screenings at the end of their shifts.
The employees involved worked at Amazon warehouses in Nevada. They were temporary workers hired by an independent contractor for Amazon. At the end of each shift, the employees had to be checked to make sure they had not stolen any goods from the warehouses. Unfortunately for the workers, the checks always occurred after they had clocked out, so they were not paid for the time. At times, the security line could be 30 minutes long. Other companies, including Apple, have also been accused in the past of failing to pay its employees for time spent on security searches.
The company responded to the lawsuit by claiming that post-work duties do not have to be paid for according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal employment-related law. The company argues that employees do not have to be paid for many tasks under law, including punching in and out on the time clock, picking up paychecks or protective gear, and walking from a parking lot to work. Amazon claims that waiting in a security line is no different, and employees are not entitled to compensation for that time.
In many cases such as this, employees will belong to a union, which would negotiate pay for the security checks. However, most technology companies in the United States do not have unions, and Amazon workers in Delaware have already rejected forming the first Amazon union in a vote taken earlier this year.
Although this case hasn’t been decided yet, there are plenty of other guidelines for what employers do and don’t have to pay employees. If an employee is performing a compensable work activity, he or she is required to be paid for that time. For example, employees who are working from home and spend time checking their computers must be paid for that time. Employees who are required to work hours that are off the clock (such as working through an unpaid lunch break) may have a claim against the employer. Also, employers can’t turn a blind eye to work that is being done off the clock.
Many workers, in addition to dealing with the issues inherent in any job, also have to deal with unpaid wages. If an employer is found to be taking advantage of an employee by failing to pay wages, the employer can be held liable for back wages, benefits, and possibly more damages as well. Employees are often afraid of filing complaints about unpaid wages, for fear they will be fired or reprimanded. However, federal law prohibits retaliation against workers for complaining about unfair payment practices.
If you have a dispute with your employer, you may need to seek legal help. This could include being improperly characterized as an independent contractor when you are actually an employee, being harassed or discriminated against on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation, being wrongfully fired, dealing with a hostile work environment, or more.
If you are facing legal issues in the workplace, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that all workers should be paid for all hours which they are required to be at work. Liberty Law works with clients throughout the San Francisco and Oakland areas. Call to learn more.