Amazon Sued Over Employee Security Checks

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 15, 2013 11:17 AM

Amazon is getting sued over allegedly unpaid security checks.

A Pennsylvania man has filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Amazon put him and other warehouse workers through rigorous 10- to 20-minute security screenings when they were off the clock -- once prior to lunch and again prior to exiting the facility -- without pay.

The lawsuit is a good reminder for employers to be mindful of wage and hour laws when conducting bag searches for theft prevention.

Amazon Security Checks

Amazon workers at a facility in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, are apparently required to go through an extensive daily security search process. This includes a walk through metal detectors and a manual search of employees' bags or personal items, reports Philadelphia's WCAU-TV.

The search itself isn't problematic as employers typically have the legal right to screen employees for theft.

But employers can potentially run afoul of state and federal minimum wage and overtime laws when such searches -- conducted at the company's request and solely for the company's benefit -- are performed without compensation.

FLSA Hourly Requirements

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employees be compensated at least a minimum wage for "hours worked" -- namely, when employees are on duty and/or on the employer's premises.

In the Amazon lawsuit, the class action plaintiffs allege they were never compensated during the bag searches or while waiting in line for the screenings (in a sea of about 100 employees), adding up to 10 to 20 minutes of uncompensated time per worker, according to WCAU-TV.

If those 10- to 20-minute increments pushed the hourly workers past 40 hours in a work week, then they would potentially be entitled to overtime pay at a rate of at least 1.5 times their regular rates of pay under the FLSA. (On the state level, the warehouse workers may be entitled to overtime pay for the lengthy security searches under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act.)

Considering that other business giants like Apple and Forever 21 have faced similar lawsuits over unpaid employee bag searches, it's advisable to consult with an experienced employment lawyer to make sure your bag search protocols are in compliance with your state's labor laws.

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