Supreme Court Hears Employment Case Concerning Security Screening After Work

SupremeLast week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning a case involving Amazon and its workers. The issue at hand involves whether Amazon should pay the workers for the time they spend standing in line waiting to be screened by security as they depart from work.

According to the New York Times, “The case on Wednesday will turn 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 Times reported that some of the justices asked pointed questions possibly signaling which way they might rule. “Justice Elena Kagan was skeptical, at least in the instance of an Amazon warehouse. ‘I mean, what makes it Amazon?’ she asked. ‘It’s a system of inventory control that betters everybody else in the business. And what’s really important to Amazon is that it knows where every toothbrush in the warehouse is.’

Justice Antonin Scalia disagreed. ‘Getting yourself inspected as you leave the place of business is not part of the job,’ he said.
Some justices were troubled by how long the screenings were said to take. “Is it irrelevant,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked, “that we’re told here that because there are not enough security checkers and because all the shifts get out at the same time, what could be a five-minute process turns out to be 25 minutes?”

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