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U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Amazon workers' security check case

A worker handles items for delivery at Amazon's new distribution center in Brieselang, near Berlin November 28, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz
A worker handles items for delivery at Amazon's new distribution center in Brieselang, near Berlin November 28, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

By Carlyn Kolker

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a case that could determine whether companies such as Amazon.com Inc must pay workers for the time they spend waiting to clear security checks at the end of their work shifts.

The case revolves around workers at Amazon warehouses in Nevada, who had to pass through security checks as part of an anti-theft procedure.

The workers, former temporary employees at Amazon contractor Integrity Staffing Solutions, said they spent nearly 30 minutes some days waiting for the checks. In a 2010 lawsuit, they argued they must be compensated for that time under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled last April that the workers' suit could go forward, prompting several similar lawsuits against Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, and its third-party warehouse contractors, in federal courts around the country.

Integrity, which is represented in the high court by former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, argued that the 9th Circuit's ruling conflicted with other court decisions that said workers do not need to be paid for similar post-work duties that are not a part of their regular work tasks.

"Security screenings are indistinguishable from many other tasks that have been found non-compensable under the FLSA, such as waiting to punch in and out on the time clock, walking from the parking lot to the work place, waiting to pick up a paycheck, or waiting to pick up protective gear before donning it for a work shift," Integrity wrote in a brief to the court.

A representative for Integrity could not be reached, and Clement did not return a message seeking comment.

Mark Thierman, who represents the workers, said the Supreme Court should adopt the 9th Circuit's view.

"What I can gain is a nationwide policy confirming the 9th Circuit's rule," Thierman said.

The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-433.

(Reporting by Carlyn Kolker in New York; Editing by Howard Goller and Bernadette Baum)

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