Supreme Court: Amazon Employees Don’t Have To Be Paid To Wait In Line To Leave Work

The Court holds that Federal Law does not require employees to be paid for the time waiting to get through mandatory security screening.

Amazon.com Fernley warehouse

In a surprisingly unanimous decision released yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that workers at an Amazon warehouse were not entitled to be paid for the time during which they had to wait in line for a security check each time the exited the workplace at the end of the day:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that a temp agency was not required to pay workers at Amazon warehouses for the time they spent waiting to go through a security screening at the end of the day. The workers say the process, meant to prevent theft, can take as long as 25 minutes.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the workers’ jobs, which involved retrieving products from warehouse shelves and packaging them for delivery to Amazon’s customers. That meant, he said, that no extra pay was required.

The decision was a big loss for workers challenging the security checks, which are common among retailers. According to a brief filed by the agency, there have been 13 class-action lawsuits against Amazon and other companies involving more than 400,000 plaintiffs and seeking hundreds of millions of dollars.

The case that the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday turned on the meaning of a 1947 law, the Portal-to-Portal Act, which says that companies need not pay for “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities, meaning ones that take place before and after the workday proper. The Supreme Court interpreted the law in 1956 in Steiner v. Mitchell to require pay only for tasks that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workmen are employed.”

(…)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, had allowed the case to proceed, saying the screenings were for the company’s benefit and were a necessary part of the workers’ jobs. That was enough, the appeals court said, to make the screenings “integral and indispensable.”

Justice Thomas disagreed, saying the appeals court had “erred by focusing on whether an employer required a particular activity.” The right test, he said, was whether the activity “is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform.”

Justice Thomas said Tuesday’s ruling was required by the 1947 law, which was a reaction to Supreme Court decisions that had required pay for a broad range of work-related activities and gave rise to “a flood of litigation” seeking nearly $6 billion. Congress responded by tightening the standards, saying the alternative would have been the “financial ruin of many employers.”

ince then, Justice Thomas said, the court has required pay for activities that were “an intrinsic element of the job” and could not be skipped. Under that test, battery-plant workers had to be paid for the time spent showering and changing clothes because the materials they worked with were toxic. And meatpackers had to be paid for the time it took to sharpen their knives because dull knives would slow production.

Security screenings are different, Justice Thomas wrote. “Integrity Staffing could have eliminated the screenings altogether,” he wrote, “without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.”

Justice Thomas noted that the Obama administration had sided with the temp agency, adding that the administration’s position was consistent with a 1951 letter from the Labor Department that did not require pay for screenings at a rocket-powder plant. Workers there were screened for matches and lighters on the way in and to prevent theft on the way out.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined the court’s opinion but added a concurrence to stress its limited scope. Activities related to worker safety and efficiency remained covered, she said. But in the warehouse case, she wrote, “employees could skip the screenings altogether without the safety of effectiveness of their principal activities being substantially impaired.”

She added that, as its name suggests, the Portal-to-Portal Act was “primarily concerned with defining the beginning and end of the workday.”

Lyle Denniston has further analysis:

The overtime pay case involved workers at two warehouses in Nevada, which served as storage and order-filling facilities for the online retail giant Amazon.com.  Two of Integrity’s hourly workers sued the company after it began requiring all workers to go through screening before they left the premises, a policy designed to deter theft of goods.

The two workers, who filed a class-action lawsuit, contended that they had to wait up to twenty-five minutes to be searched, at which point they then had to remove their wallets, keys, and belts and pass through a metal detector. Their lawyers argued that because this procedure was a mandatory part of their job, imposed by their employer, they were entitled to be paid overtime for the additional time.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Integrity had to pay overtime for the screening process, concluding that this after-work review was a job requirement and was for the company’s benefit.

Reversing that result, and reaching the same conclusion reached by all other federal appeals courts that had considered the issue, the Supreme Court declared that such screening procedures were not an “integral” part of the job.  Integrity’s staff at the warehouses, the Court said in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, were hired to take products off the shelves and package them for shipment to Amazon’s customers, not to go through security screenings.

The Court also found that Integrity could have eliminated the screenings without affecting the workers’ ability to complete their normal tasks.   The decision commented that the Ninth Circuit was wrong in focusing on whether the employer had required the extra activity at the end of the workday.  If that were the test, Justice Thomas wrote, it would sweep into the realm of paid employment the very kind of activities that Congress had enacted the Portal-to-Portal Act, passed in 1947 to narrow the scope of wage and hour rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to address.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, wrote a brief concurring opinion, elaborating on their understanding of the standards the Thomas opinion had used.

As a matter of common sense, I suppose, the reaction of a lay person to this decision is likely to be one of confusion as to how the Supreme Court could reach a decision like this, especially unanimously. When James Joyner wrote about this case in October shortly before it was argued as part of the Supreme Court’s very first day back on the bench for the October 2014 term, he suggested that the common sense solution should be that employees are entitled to be compensated for the time that they are required to wait in line to exit the warehouse facility where they work due to security procedures designed to ensure that they aren’t stealing. As Justice Thomas writes for the unanimous Court, though, that’s not what the Portal to Portal Act, and the case law that has interpreted it, says:

The security screenings at issue here are noncompensable postliminary activities. To begin with, the screenings were not the “principal activity or activities which [the] employee is employed to perform.” 29 U. S. C. §254(a)(1). Integrity Staffing did not employ its workers to undergo security screenings, but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package those products for shipment to Amazon customers.

The security screenings also were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ duties as warehouse  workers. As explained above, an activity is not integral and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities unless it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform those activities. The screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packaging them for shipment. And Integrity Staffing could have eliminated the screenings altogether without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.

The Solicitor General, adopting the position of the Department of Labor, agrees that these screenings were noncompensable postliminary activities. See Brief for United States 10. That view is fully consistent with an Opinion Letter the Department issued in 1951. The letter found noncompensable a preshift security search of employees in a rocket-powder plant ” ‘for matches, spark producing devices such as cigarette lighters, and other items which have a direct bearing on the safety of the employees,'” as well as a postshift security search of the employees done “‘for the purpose of preventing theft.'” Opinion Letter from Dept. of Labor, Wage and Hour Div., to Dept. of Army, Office of Chief of Ordnance (Apr. 18, 1951), pp. 1-2 (available in Clerk of Court’s case file). The Department drew no distinction between the searches conducted for the safety of the employees and those conducted for the purpose of preventing theft—neither were compensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act.

The Court of Appeals erred by focusing on whether an employer required a particular activity. The integral and  ndispensable test is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform. See, e.g., IBP, 546 U. S., at 42; Mitchell, supra, at 262; Steiner, 350 U. S., at 249-251; see also 29 CFR §790.8(a) (explaining that the term ”principal activities” was “considered sufficiently broad to embrace within its terms such activities as are indispensable to the performance of productive work” (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis added)); §790.8(c) (“Among the activities included as an integral part of a principal activity are those closely related activities which are indispensable to its performance” (emphasis added)). If the test could be satisfied merely by the fact that an employer required an activity, it would sweep into “principal activities” the very activities that the Portal-to-Portal Act was designed to address. The employer in Anderson, for instance, required its employees to walk “from a timeclock near the factory gate to a workstation” so that they could “begin their work,” “but it is indisputable that the Portal-to-Portal Act evinces Congress’ intent to repudiate Anderson’s holding that such walking time was compensable under the FLSA.” IBP, supra, at 41. A test that turns on whether the activity is for the benefit of the employer is similarly overbroad.

Finally, we reject the employees’ argument that time spent waiting to undergo the security screenings is compensable under the FLSA because Integrity Staffing could have reduced that time to a de minimis amount. The fact that an employer could conceivably reduce the time spent by employees on any preliminary or postliminary activity does not change the nature of the activity or its relationship to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform. These arguments are properly presented to the employer at the bargaining table, see 29 U. S. C.  §254(b)(1), not to a court in an FLSA claim.

We hold that an activity is integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform—and thus compensable under the FLSA—if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities. 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.

Regardless of what might seem like “common sense” or “fairness,” then, the law here is based purely on an an interpretation of a law that has been on the book for some sixty-seven years now, and it does appear that the Court is interpreting that law, which was meant to supplement the Fair Labor Standards Act, and perhaps most importantly to specifically overturn certain Supreme Court decisions that had broadly interpreted what constituted a “compensable” activity under that law in the early years after it was adopted, correctly in this case. Indeed, the fact that this is a unanimous decision and that the Labor Department took the position that the security screenings were non-compensable seems to strongly suggest that the Court got the result right here as a matter of law. If you’ve got a complaint with the outcome, then that complaint lies with Congress, not the Courts. However, given that this this law has stood for  67 years it seems unlikely that we’d see any real effort to change it even if the partisan makeup of the House and Senate were to change at some point in the future.

Here is the Court’s relatively brief opinion in the matter:

Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. v. Busk by Doug Mataconis

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Law and the Courts
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    This is exactly why we need unions. It’s not the conclusion Doug would draw, but it’s crystal clear to me.

  2. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: There is a manufacturing plant nearby where workers have to go out through the main gate as they leave. That takes about 10-15 minutes to get about 80 cars through. Those workers belong to a union.

  3. @stonetools:

    There was a union involved in this case. They sued. And they lost.

  4. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    Bet they get paid a hell of a lot better, and for any screening time too.

  5. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Well, got me there:-(.

    Time for industrial action then.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Once again SCOTUS sides with Big Business and fvcks the Worker.
    The 9th got it right. It’s well established that Thomas is employed by Big Business.
    This is friggin’ common sense…if a business is requiring you to do something as part of your job then you should be paid for it. If you cannot leave the premises until you have done this thing then the time required to do said thing should be compensated. This is not the same as walking across a parking lot. The workers time is being infringed upon to benefit the owner and thus the owner should compensate the worker.

    this procedure was a mandatory part of their job, imposed by their employer

    this after-work review was a job requirement and was for the company’s benefit.

    If a company is requiring this thing…then it must be integral and indispensable to the work…otherwise they wouldn’t incur the overhead and it wouldn’t be required.

  7. jewelbomb says:

    If the screenings are not “integral and indispensable” to the workers’ jobs (as per Justice Thomas), it seems safe to assume that workers should now be permitted to skip them at their own discretion. I fail to see how complying with time-consuming company policies that are aren’t viewed as “integral” or “indispensable” can at the same time be mandatory. Clearly, from Amazon’s point of view these screenings are indispensable.

    @C.Clavin beat me to it.

  8. JohnMcC says:

    The security screening is likely to be ‘integral’ to the work process if one looks at it from the standpoint of Mr Amazon. Not so much if one looks at it from the angle of the warehouse worker. The question then becomes whether ‘work’ in the context of the law is defined by the employer or the worker. Guess who wins that contest?

    Let’s review the Golden Rule, children: “Whoever has the gold makes the rule.”

    (Edit – I see I’m late with this observation.)

  9. @C. Clavin:

    And based on this ruling so are Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

  10. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: Not really. Since the plant went union a few years ago, wages have been flat, more layoffs, work parceled out overseas, a big turnover rate, and less work. Unions are okay in some situations, but this company had an excellent record of above-county average pay, a family health plan that was above average, paid education benefits, college help, and other high end benefits. After they voted for the union, ownership changed and things went down hill. That is not always the case involving unions. Though I remember well the union thing with a well known airline that out. Every contract time they demanded more, more, more. Even though their pay and benefits were already well above the area. They were paying students to clean out the cabins at a rate several times the minimum wage. They had it made, until the government deregulated and they lost their gate monopoly.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    The security screenings also were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ duties as warehouse workers. As explained above, an activity is not integral and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities unless it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform those activities.

    Arbitrary. If workers are required to submit to screening then screening is integral and indispensable, as failure to comply will result in termination, preventing workers from performing those activities. The justices chose to limit the scope of their reasoning in following the chain to its logical conclusion.

  12. MBunge says:

    I’m no law-takin’ guy so could someone explain how something an employee is compelled to do or risk termination is not “”integral and Indispensable” to their job? Are there any limits to what extra stuff employers can order employees to do without pay?

    Mike

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Tyrell: Are those workers forced by their employer to drive to work? Does the employer actively prevent them from walking to work, or taking the bus, or getting picked up and dropped off?

  14. gVOR08 says:

    This seems to say I can hire someone, say a legal secretary, require he do secretarial work 8 hours a day, five days a week, pay him on an hourly basis for 40 hours, AND require that he stay two hours late on Wednesdays to clean the rest rooms without paying him for it as long as I say it’s not part of his job, even though I’ll fire him if he doesn’t do it. That about right?

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I have not seen where the four you list have been directly compensated by business as Thomas is as a perennial guest at the Koch Brothers political gathering, which is expressly

    “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.”

    …I’m not aware of their required financial statements being out of order for two decades as Justice Thomas’ were…I am not clear that their spouses work for the same business that you allege employs them, in Justice Thomas’ case the Kochs…and I haven’t seen a direct link between their employers and their decisions, as there is for Thomas and the Koch’s in the Citizens United decision…
    But if you say so.

  16. anonymous-stat says:

    A direct expression of the quoted passage is that if I hire you explicitly to do A, then I can require you to do B without pay at the end of the day for any B not equal to A, and with no obligation on me to reduce the burden of B.

    Case law or no, this is absurd on the face of it. It’s not hard to come up with values of A and B that are cleary unjust. And being required to do something should by definition make it an indispensible part of the job, regardless of what the job posting said when you were hired.

    There is also a difference between an action that is logically necessary (e.g., getting from home to the office) and one that is required by the employer (e.g., waiting in line). Although the former is necessary, the worker can find different ways to accomplish it (living closer or farther, train or car, and so forth), but the worker has no choice in how the employer’s requirement is fulfilled.

    The court has jumped the shark.

  17. Jack says:

    I work on a military installation. There are three entrances. over 40,000 vehicles enter this base between the hours of 0700-0900 Mon-Fri. I have no alternative, I must enter the base to perform my job. I cannot bypass security for obvious reasons. It routinely takes about 10 minutes to enter the base where they scan every persons ID and await a result. On heightened security days or when there is construction, that time has exceeded an hour. Should I be compensated for the time I spend at/approaching a security checkpoint trying to enter the base?

    I dare say this screening is integral and indispensable to the security of the base, but not integral and indispensable to my job.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Apples and oranges.

  19. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Oh, really. Please elaborate. A security line entering is an orange, but a security line leaving is an apple?

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The security screenings also were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ duties as warehouse workers.

    BWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!

    Just integral and indispensable to their receiving a paycheck. Love those ivory towers the Supreme Court justices and the people who write our laws live in.

  21. jewelbomb says:

    @Jack:

    Should I be compensated for the time I spend at/approaching a security checkpoint trying to enter the base?

    If you are an hourly employee, then yes,ideally you should be compensated. I have a hard time understanding why folks would argue against their own best interests.

  22. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: They’re basically saying a list of conditions of employment is not equivalent to a duty description, and where they differ, pay may not be required for the condition of employment.

    So if your duty description is “put Kindle Fires into boxes for shipment,” but doesn’t include the condition of employment “stand in a line so we can make sure you didn’t stuff one up your shirt,” the employer isn’t required to pay you for the latter.

  23. jd says:

    What is “integral and indispensable” is to increase the bottom line for the corporation. These screenings do that by reducing loss. The effect of this decision will be to encourage employers who screen to eliminate all but one screening station. Good luck with that second job.

  24. James Joyner says:

    I’m in the same situation as @Jack, since I have to enter and leave MCB Quantico every duty day. But, of course, I’m not an hourly employee and don’t expect to be compensated for time spent but rather for performing a job. I suppose there are hourly employees at Quantico, though, and they almost certainly aren’t compensated for that wasted time.

  25. Jack says:

    @jewelbomb: My job does not involve time at/approaching the gate…it is not integral and indispensable to my job. My job involves time at a secure terminal within the security perimeter. Getting inside the perimeter is up to me and my clock doesn’t start until I sit at my terminal.

    I am not arguing against my interests. The base security posture changes over time. They may add another gate to reduce wait times. But regardless, I cannot demand my employer compensate me for time I spend sitting in my car in line trying to get inside the perimeter.

    Based upon your analysis, if the security checkpoint only took 1 minute, but it took another hour to get to my terminal, I should be able to charge for the hour to and from the gate each day.

    How about the time it takes me to get to the gate? What if I chose to live two hours away, but there are less desired homes closer? Can I charge for that too? Basic hygiene is integral and indispensable, should I be able to charge for my prep time getting ready for work?

    Where does it end?

  26. stonetools says:

    Of course, I’m sure the court will say “The solution to all this is that Congress change the law” but since this Congress is bought and paid for by big business money, this will never happen.
    Seems like conservatives are well on the way to returning things to pre 1932 America, where the workers had no rights a businessman had to respect .

  27. JKB says:

    @Jack:

    And that is why the law this decision is based on exists. Most here are thinking of Amazon, but a ruling that pay was necessary would hit the federal government worst of all since federal facilities, military bases and defense contractors are the biggest users of entry/exit security checks. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget Obama’s Silicon Valley cronies.

  28. jewelbomb says:

    @Jack: “My job does not involve time at/approaching the gate…it is not integral and indispensable to my job.”

    Getting through security and to your work site isn’t indispensable for you to do your job? Fair enough, then I guess you’re permitted to work from some another location and are choosing to go through security. In that case, yeah, you probably shouldn’t be compensated.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    A security slowdown before you get to work is an inconvenience, does not directly benefit the owner in any appreciable way, and can be worked around. It’s essentially a traffic jam. The owner cannot control when you get there…that’s up to you and your colleagues and dumb luck. It’s going to take you x amount of time to get to your job…deal with it.
    A required inspection which prevents you from leaving at the end of a structured shift, is of a direct benefit to the owner, and is something over which you have no control, should be compensated.
    The time it takes you to walk across the parking lot, scratch your nuts, and get in your car should not be compensated.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Also…it is not a security line leaving.

  31. Stan says:

    In my youth I worked in a warehouse for a company that canned peas. We were required to show up each day at 10:00 to start our work day, but we weren’t allowed to check in. We sat around for an hour or so until the peas came in from the field and had been cooked and canned. The pallets, each with their cases of peas, would accumulate in front of the warehouse until there was no more room for them on the pavement. Then we were allowed to check in to start stacking the peas. Sometimes rain would interrupt the field work, and we would be checked out. We weren’t allowed to leave the premises, though. We had to stick around, on our own dime, of course, to see if the weather would allow the process to resume.

    By contrast, the Jamaican field workers, imported from what was then a British colony, were paid for the time they were required to be present in the fields, whether the fields could be worked or not. Unlike us, they had the advantage of having a government, then a distant colonial power, that looked out for their interests.

    Every day we were required to spend from one to two unpaid hours on the premises. This may be legal, but it wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now.

  32. JKB says:

    @Stan:

    When was your youth? Where was this warehouse? These are all important questions as things have changed assuming you aren’t still in your youth.

    I do believe that the FLSA covers wait time now. And, collective bargaining is permitted throughout the US, just the most productive states don’t require joining the union as a condition of employment. We call these states “Right to Work” states. Shouldn’t everyone have a right to work without paying off some union thug if they wish?

  33. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There was a union involved in this case. They sued. And they lost.

    What is your evidence to support this assertion? The employee(s) is/are suing their temporary agency. I’ve never heard of a temp agency being a union shop.

  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    just the most productive states don’t require joining the union as a condition of employment. We call these states “Right to Work” states.

    Productive states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Kentucky?

  35. Tyrell says:

    Around here textile mills dot the landscape, except one problem: they are closed and shuttered. Years ago they ran 24/7, 3 shifts. These were all non union. The mill workers were always loyal to their employers. The textile mills were family owned. Mill houses and the mill village way of life was a part of the culture and heritage around here. Now it is all gone, thanks to NAFTA. There are a few mills still hanging on: modern, clean, quiet, and safe. Many of the old buildings are still sitting, vacant and shuttered. Some date from the mid-1800’s. There are still a few mill houses around.
    With t-shirts going for $20 and hooded sweatshirts at $50+, it certainly seems reasonable that American factories could compete, pay decent wages, and stay in business. Someone is making a ton of money off of $50 sweatshirts that cost about $4 to make and people buy them because it has some popular logo or a team name on it.
    Back years ago we had the “Buy American” and “USA #1” movement, but it faded out. I used to look for goods made in the US and sometimes still do.

  36. @James Joyner:

    Also, as government employees I would imagine that most of the hourly employees at Quantico would actually be exempt from most of the requirements of the FLSA, but I can’t say that’s entirely correct as a matter of law.

  37. steve says:

    ” A security line entering is an orange, but a security line leaving is an apple?”

    The workers going to Amazon likely have traffic issues also. Many of us do. So, the baseline is that we all have to deal with that. Now, suppose that besides driving on base, when you got to your bldg. you had to spend 30 minutes in line getting out. Something that is required by your place of employment.

    Steve

  38. stonetools says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Yeah, after checking on Google, I don’t see any evidence that these employees worked for a union. Maybe Doug is referring a union filing an Amicus curia brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. But I’m pretty sure Amazon doesn’t allow unions. I think they are well known for that.
    There is progress, though:

    PHOENIX — Amazon.com Inc. has agreed to change some of the rules for workers at the Web retailer’s warehouses in the United States so that employees can communicate about pay and working conditions without fear of retaliation.

    In a settlement reached with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, the Seattle-based company also agreed to rescind a verbal warning given to a staff member at a Phoenix warehouse who voiced concerns about security in the parking lot following thefts from vehicles. A hearing had been scheduled between the parties Tuesday. Bloomberg News obtained a copy of the settlement.

    The deal could open the door for Amazon’s workers to unionize, because the settlement requires the online retailer to post notices at its fulfillment centers notifying employees that they have the right to form unions and work with each other for collective benefits.

    So the NLRB is on the job-despite the best efforts of Republicans to cripple the agency. Kudos PBO once againb.

  39. al-Ameda says:

    The Supreme Court interpreted the law in 1956 in Steiner v. Mitchell to require pay only for tasks that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workmen are employed.”

    I agree with the ruling.
    I do not get paid for coming or going to my place of work, and I do not see what the Amazon employees were required to do much different from that.

  40. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I call those states “The Right to Work for Less” States.

  41. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    Around here textile mills dot the landscape, except one problem: they are closed and shuttered. Years ago they ran 24/7, 3 shifts. These were all non union. The mill workers were always loyal to their employers. The textile mills were family owned. Mill houses and the mill village way of life was a part of the culture and heritage around here. Now it is all gone, thanks to NAFTA

    What’s ironic is that southern states passed right to work and other anti-union legioslation in the 1950s in order to lure textile and other companies from the unionized Northgwest and Midwest to the South. The deal these states made is , “We’ll deliver you a docile, low paying, non unionized workforce, and you businesses will move down here and provide jobs. ” That worked-until NAFTA and globalization. Then the businesses left, and the states ended up getting screwed by the very businesses they enticed to come there. Karma is a b!tch, isnt it?

  42. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    Around here textile mills dot the landscape, except one problem: they are closed and shuttered. Years ago they ran 24/7, 3 shifts. These were all non union. The mill workers were always loyal to their employers. The textile mills were family owned. Mill houses and the mill village way of life was a part of the culture and heritage around here. Now it is all gone, thanks to NAFTA

    What’s ironic is that southern states passed right to work and other anti-union legioslation in the 1950s in order to lure textile and other companies from the unionized Northgwest and Midwest to the South. The deal these states made is , “We’ll deliver you a docile, low paying, non unionized workforce, and you businesses will move down here and provide jobs. ” That worked-until NAFTA and globalization. Then the businesses left, and the states ended up getting screwed by the very businesses they enticed to come there. Karma is a b!tch, isnt it?

  43. jewelbomb says:

    @al-Ameda: I don’t know where you work or how onerous the security procedures are there, but your argument essentially boils down to: I get screwed at my job, so I’m cool with others being screwed as well.

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I do not get paid for coming or going to my place of work, and I do not see what the Amazon employees were required to do much different from that.

    This has nothing to do with them coming or going to work. This has to do with them being forcibly held at work, without pay, for up to half an hour a day, every day, after they’ve finished their job.

    Assuming you have a desk job, it would be the same as you having to sit quietly at your desk for a half-hour each day after you’ve finished your work, and only then allowed to go home.

  45. Trumwill says:

    @al-Ameda: It’s a question of whether or not the employer specifically is delaying you, and in the case of security lines they are. They’re taking up your time, in ways that they have direct control and you do not, and not compensating you for it.

    They can’t be expected to pay for commuting times, because you control where you live and you could take a job across town in order to rack up more hours. They can make a case that they can’t really control having a large campus, such that it takes ten minutes to get in and out. They can’t argue that their security procedures are beyond their control.

    The ruling may be correct, as a matter of law. I agree with the consensus, though, that to the extent this is true it ought to mean a change in the law. Security delays ought to fall into the category of safety gear requirements, rather than commute times.

  46. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: Low paying, yes, but it was unskilled, low education job requirements. But the mill owners provided houses for low rent in many cases.
    This is no disparagement at all of textile workers, here or abroad. They are hard workers and dependable.
    Today’s mills are much different: safe, clean, quiet, air conditioned, more use of technology, and smaller.

  47. Barry says:

    @jewelbomb: “If the screenings are not “integral and indispensable” to the workers’ jobs (as per Justice Thomas), it seems safe to assume that workers should now be permitted to skip them at their own discretion. ”

    This. People skipping it would have been fired, and it’d have been a for-cause firing.

    Gawd Fardking Dumn these nine sons and daughters of the red-light district.

  48. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “And based on this ruling so are Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.”

    Yes. What we see hear was nine motherf*cking b*stards who have no problem with f*cking over the little guy.

    They probably got a laugh out of it, and I know that at least four of them got rock hard when somebody pointed out that now Amazon has no incentive to spend money to make the screenings shorter, that by next Christmas those might be hour-long screenings.

  49. Barry says:

    Notices that these screenings are in fact ““integral and indispensable” to the workers’ jobs”:

    They are required by the employer.

    They are done on the employer’s property.

    They are not an ordinary part of everyday life (e.g., everybody spends time getting to and from the workplace).

    Failure to do them would lead to a for-cause firing.

  50. Tyrell says:

    @steve: How about the inevitable “you need to show up 15 minutes before you sign in” orders that come with a lot of jobs ?
    That is 15 minutes x 5 x 4 = 300 minutes or 6 hours or so in some months.

  51. JKB says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Federal employees are covered by the FLSA. Although, in my experience, the federal managers routinely violated the law with only the occasional public scandal that caused a memo storm for a bit. On the other hand, the managers also had incentive not to contest small claims of overtime, etc. to avoid accountability.

  52. John Burgess says:

    @C. Clavin: I guess it’s just that the four liberal justices are whoring for an invitation to a Koch event. Right?

  53. @jewelbomb:

    Getting through security and to your work site isn’t indispensable for you to do your job?

    In the same sense that travelling to work is indispensable. Am I owed pay for time spent waiting in traffice during my commute?

  54. jewelbomb says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The obvious difference is that your commute is largely a function of where you choose to live. Security screenings are done at the discretion of the employer and you can’t do much to control how long they take. Quite simply: employers have no control of your commute while they have total control of their security measures.

  55. Barry says:
  56. Stan says:

    @JKB: My youth was in the early 50’s and the state was Wisconsin. The labor practices the canning company employed were exactly the same as those used by many present day fast food outlets. You’re told to report to work at some time, you show up, but you’re not allowed to check in because the customers haven’t shown up yet. Or you’re busy working and a supervisor comes around and checks you out because you’re not busy enough. An hour later, you’re allowed to check in again. When I read about how McDonald’s treats its workers I had an overpowering sense of deja vu.

    I was in high school when I worked at the canning company, and I’ll turn 79 in a few years. So it’s 60 years since I started feeling that there were more thugs in management than in the union.

  57. Stan says:

    @Stan: Senior moment – I turn 79 in a few months, not a few years.

  58. James Pearce says:

    “Justice Thomas disagreed, saying the appeals court had “erred by focusing on whether an employer required a particular activity.” The right test, he said, was whether the activity “is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform.””

    What kind of tortured BS logic is that? So….what….whenever my company does sexual harrassment training or evacuates the building for a fire alarm, I could be “off the clock” if my employer so chooses?

  59. C. Clavin says:

    @John Burgess:
    You can attribute the idiocy of the liberals to anything you like…assuming you have some evidence. I can only say that I cannot begin to fathom their reasoning in what is obviously a wrongly decided case.
    On the other hand Thomas’ motivation is always predictable, and crystal clear, based solely on the evidence in record.

  60. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “What kind of tortured BS logic is that? So….what….whenever my company does sexual harrassment training or evacuates the building for a fire alarm, I could be “off the clock” if my employer so chooses?”

    If they did it at the end of the day, or at the beginning.

  61. Barry says:

    @Tyrell: “How about the inevitable “you need to show up 15 minutes before you sign in” orders that come with a lot of jobs ?
    That is 15 minutes x 5 x 4 = 300 minutes or 6 hours or so in some months.”

    Yes, that is required time on the employer’s property.

    G*d f*cking d*mn, but so many right-wingers have this idea that supporting some abuse wins their argument.

  62. Barry says:

    @Stan: “So it’s 60 years since I started feeling that there were more thugs in management than in the union.”

    Heck, my current opinion is that there were never less than 100 times as many thugs in management than in the union.

  63. Barry says:

    @C. Clavin: ” I can only say that I cannot begin to fathom their reasoning in what is obviously a wrongly decided case.”

    It’s pretty obvious – neoliberalism, a bias towards corporations and employers against people, in general an elite attitude.

  64. Gustopher says:

    9-0 really pretty clearly says that as a matter of law, this was the right decision. Unanimous decisions are pretty rare.

    It also demonstrates that what is legal and what is morally correct often differ.

    Thank you, Supreme Court, for reminding me not to shop at Amazon this holiday season. They may be in the legal right, but they are complete scum for doing this.

  65. James Pearce says:

    @Barry:

    If they did it at the end of the day, or at the beginning.

    Kind of an arbitrary cut-off, innit?

    Basically the way I look at is that these things should be subject to negotiation. If the employee demands compensation for “theft checks,” the company should pay them. If the company doesn’t want to pay them, then they need to drop their demand for “theft checks.” Nothing personal. It’s just business.

  66. Barry says:

    @Gustopher:

    “9-0 really pretty clearly says that as a matter of law, this was the right decision. Unanimous decisions are pretty rare.”

    You’re listening to Antonin ‘Pulled it out of my *ss’ Scalia.

    The majority of SCOTUS decisions are 9-0.

    See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/us/supreme-court-issuing-more-unanimous-rulings.html

  67. Barry says:

    @Gustopher: “Thank you, Supreme Court, for reminding me not to shop at Amazon this holiday season. They may be in the legal right, but they are complete scum for doing this.”

    Same for me. And what’s frightening is that now Amazon is freed up.
    I’ve bought some Nook stuff from Barnes and Noble (due to gift cards)
    and their site is incredibly bad – Bezos must have saboteurs in there.

  68. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “Basically the way I look at is that these things should be subject to negotiation. If the employee demands compensation for “theft checks,” the company should pay them. If the company doesn’t want to pay them, then they need to drop their demand for “theft checks.” Nothing personal. It’s just business.”

    And SCOTUS just said that ‘it’s just business’ to not paying employees.

  69. James Pearce says:

    @Barry:

    And SCOTUS just said that ‘it’s just business’ to not paying employees.

    Is that supposed to be some kind of argument or something?

  70. JKB says:

    I’m not sure what all the whining is about. A law passed in 1947 constrained the decision of the SCOTUS. During the intervening 67 years, the Democratic Party controlled the Congress for most of the period and also held the White House for quite a few years. In fact, in 2009-2011, the Democratic party could have “corrected” this law. Why did the unions, at the peak of their power in the ’50s and ’60s not have this law changed?

  71. bill says:

    @stonetools: we have unions, they’ve run themselves into the ground with shoddy work and corrupt leaders.
    they have only themselves to blame for their fall from grace.

  72. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: No argument from me on that point. To quote Huey Long (IIRC): “It don’t matter whether your talking about the left wing or the right wing, both wings are flappin’ off the same d**n bird.”

  73. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: It’s possible for an employer to be passively involved. For example, at one place I worked, I COULD have taken the bus to work, but the bus ride was 3.5 hours (the earliest bus arrived at the work place one hour after my shift started, also). But I will concede that the traffic jam leaving work is not a workplace problem, it is a traffic control problem that ought to be addressed by the civil governments involved–if for no other reason than the lost opportunity cost for society of idling one’s car for the time involved.

    Or some people could decide to have some coffee in the break room and leave 20 minutes later (which was my solution at the above location which had a similar problem).

  74. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jack: On the days that it takes longer, do you leave one hour earlier than normal so that you can arrive at work “on time?” On those days, do you work one hour longer than you would normally because you punched in one hour later than normal? Do heightened security days also mean that it takes you one hour longer to leave the premises than normal?

    I expect that the answer to these questions is ‘no, of course not;” in which case, you are being compensated.

  75. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “Is that supposed to be some kind of argument or something?”

    Yes, that an employer can require something (on their premises) of employees, state that it’s not work, SCOTUS accepts that.