Supreme Court Rules That Companies Don't Have to Compensate Workers for Required Time at Work

Using logic so tortured that Dick Cheney would approve, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that companies didn't have to compensate workers for required security checkpoint waits that take as long as 30 minutes a day to complete. The ruling overturned a federal appeals court decision from 2013, which held that workers at a warehouse that provides services for Amazon.com should be compensated for the time they were required to go through security checkpoints whose purpose was to prevent employee theft. The workers don't work directly for Amazon but are hired by Integrity Staffing Solutions. The outcome of the case is likely to affect workers at other companies, such as Apple and CVS, who are currently engaged in similar lawsuits.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the court, said the screenings, although they are required, are not a "principal activity" of the workers’ jobs and therefore are not subject to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. He said that for workers to be paid, the activity in question must be “an intrinsic element” of the job and “one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.”

An attorney for the workers said the ruling leaves thousands of workers short-changed every day and that, while the case is finished at the federal level, workers still have potential to pursue similar claims under state law.