Friday, October 10, 2014

Amazon security vs. worker rights -- which will give?

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether Amazon should be required to pay workers for time they spend in line going through security clearances as they leave work (BBW account here).  Right now this time is unpaid and workers complain of wait times of up to 30 minutes.  Since Amazon does not have to compensate its workers for this time, it has no incentive to invest in quicker, more expensive inspection techniques.  Interestingly, the Obama administration is supporting Amazon!

There is no legal precedent that readily applies.  Workers cannot be paid for commuting time, which makes sense because workers make choices about how close they live to their job.  Workers have no choice about the inspections, a factor that may weigh in their favor.  But of course airport passengers have no choice about the TSA!

A key issue, BBW argues, is whether the time in line is "integral and indispensable" to essential work activities.  Butchers have to be paid for time spent sharpening knives; in some occupations where workers are exposed to hazardous materials, workers get paid for time spent cleaning up.

Apparently Amazon has other unique workplace policies, such as no lipstick and no watches, because of their concern about employee theft.  

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