Over the last couple years, a lawsuit by workers at Amazon warehouses has been making its way through the courts. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to take it up. The workers claim that they were made to spend time off the clock going through security screenings, taking about 25 unpaid minutes each day. Being made to work off the clock is classic wage theft lawsuit material, but Bruce Vail writes, the stakes are unusually high in this case:
Mark Thierman, the Reno, Nev., lawyer representing Busk and Castro, says the lawsuit has since been joined by another 500 workers from other warehouses. If the suit is fully successful, he tells In These Times, the settlement could include back pay for as many as 500,000 workers (both permanent and temporary) from all of Amazon’s more than 50 U.S. warehouses. […]A commentary from attorneys at Littler Mendelson, which is representing Integrity Staffing, explains the stake employers have in Busk. “The question is of great import for the nation’s employers as security screening is becoming an ever more common practice in the workplace,” write attorneys Neil Alexander, Rick Roskelley and Cory Walker. “Indeed, the Ninth Circuit’s determination in Busk has already triggered a spate of class-action suits filed by employees seeking back pay for time spent undergoing pre- or post-shift security measures. If allowed to stand, the Ninth Circuit’s determination could result in massive retroactive liability stemming from such suits.”
Since the circuit court ruling was in favor of the workers, there’s reason for concern that the Supreme Court is hearing this case in order to decide that, yes, businesses can force workers to spend significant unpaid time going through required security screenings:
“It’s always a little worrying when [the Supreme Court] agrees to take a case from the Ninth Circuit,” [attorney Brooke Lierman] says. Whereas the Ninth Circuit is considered by labor lawyers to be relatively liberal, the high court is considered very conservative, Lierman says, so there is concern that some Supreme Court judges are predisposed to overrule the Ninth Circuit. “There are justices on the Supreme Court who want to roll back the rights of workers,” she says.
She’s definitely not kidding on that last point.
This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on March 15, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.