Amazon workers want to be paid for standing in line at security checks

Mar 5, 2014, 6:43 AM | Updated: 7:51 am
Workers in Amazon warehouses have to go through security checks at the end of their work day to make sure they haven't stolen anything. With lines that last a half hour or more, their case to be compensated for the time now heads to the Supreme Court. (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Amazon warehouse workers are upset because as part of their job they have to go through security checks as they leave the building to make sure they’re not stealing anything. Their case, to be compensated for their time, is now headed to the Supreme Court.

Going through the security checks requires lining up for, sometimes for as much as a half hour or more. The employees feel that this is part of the workday and they should be paid for it.

In previous cases, the court has ruled that things like punching in, or of course, commuting to work, are not considered part of your work day.

So I asked University of Washington’s Dr. Vandra Huber, a professor of Human Resources Management if these Amazon employees pushing their case too far.

“In my opinion, probably not,” she said.

According to Huber, the real issue is if the employees waiting in line for their security check are doing something that benefits the company.

“Are they engaged to wait, or are they waiting to be engaged?” Huber asked. “That sounds like a play on words.”

Strictly speaking, going through the security check to make sure they haven’t stolen anything is not part of their job – as an employee, you should be expected not to steal anything.

On the other hand, it’s not an incidental amount of time.

Apparently, because these Amazon warehouses have so few security checkers, you can stand there for a half hour or longer. If it was the kind of security check you get going into a stadium, you know, thirty seconds – no problem – the problem seems to be the amount of time it takes.

Huber said it might still be an issue, even if the check only took a few minutes. “Then you have a company like Amazon, three minutes per worker starts adding up. So that if it’s overtime, over 40 hours, then it’s time-and-a-half too for many of these workers.”

As the Supreme Court makes their ruling, it will likely affect more than Amazon. A ruling in favor of the workers could set a precedent that then spreads to other businesses.

“These types of cases always set precedents. One of the earliest ones that was similar, was a case where mining companies did not want to pay workers for the time it took them to (descend the mine shaft.) That could take up to a half-an-hour,” explained Huber. “It sounds like Amazon. And of course if they didn’t have to pay them, then (the mining companies) would save money. So the same thing might happen with Amazon.”

In the case of the mine workers, Huber said it was ruled that traveling down the mine shaft was a part of the work day.

“They don’t have to pay you to drive to the work site but the time it takes you to go down that mine is certainly overtime,” said Huber.

It sounds like the Amazon case is in a gray area.

“The Supreme Court right now is business focused, based on its balance.” But Huber predicted, “In my opinion the labor laws would probably say the workers need to be compensated.”’s Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

(Photo by Scott Graham/Unsplash)...
Dave Ross

Ross: The real secret to a happy workforce

When employees get asked ‘how can we make you feel appreciated’ they’ll say, well you know, donuts are great, but a little more money would be nice too.
1 day ago
“Homosexuality in America,” Life, 26 June 1964, pp. 66-80....
Dave Ross

Ross: How the suburbs guard ‘birds-and-the-bees’ chatter

I saw a copy of LIFE magazine on the living room coffee table that featured a two-page spread captioned “Homosexuality in America.”
2 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Have Seattleites gone soft on crime?

The Seattle Police Department recently came out with some advice on what to do if a burglar breaks in while you’re at home. The advice… is to get out, ASAP.
3 days ago
Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) speaks during a roundtable at the White House (Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: Why Oklahoma’s stance on abortion will echo throughout the country

12 states have trigger laws that take effect if Roe v Wade is overturned – and Oklahoma is one of them.
4 days ago
Katie Wussler, a program coordinator at Mother & Child Education Center, checks the lot number on a...
Dave Ross

Ross: Baby formula shortage puts new mothers in difficult spot

I’m having trouble accepting that the US is dealing with a baby formula shortage – especially when the main advice is do NOT try to make your own.
7 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Are vasectomies the best form of birth control?

A Tweet caught my attention because it was a sketch for a short story about a world where abortions aren’t necessary.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Amazon workers want to be paid for standing in line at security checks