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Amazon makes workers wait, but won't pay them for the time.

  1. My Esoteric profile image90
    My Esotericposted 2 years ago

    This situation is this.  A warehouse workers spends the day doing their job.  When their done, they can spend up to 25 unpaid minutes, it seems, waiting to go through security to make sure they didn't steal anything.

    Apparently this is quite legal, at the federal level anyway.  The federal appeals court found in favor of the workers but the Supreme Court, 9-0, begged to disagree stating:

    - "The court found that the workers don't have to be paid because under federal law, they do not have to be compensated for time spent performing an activity that they were not hired to do."

    REALLY?  Apparently so, and with the Republicans taking control of Congress, you can believe this will not be fixed ... or should it?

    Opinions?

    1. wilderness profile image96
      wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Absolutely it needs fixing.  Any time a company demands time of a worker, where that time is not at a worker's discretion (even to be present or not) it requires compensation (or should, at least).

      This is not that uncommon.  A chip manufacturer near me requires employees to be at the workstation, dressed in their bunny suit (supplied by the company and kept on the company site), before the start of the shift.  Illegal and unethical, but they still require it.

      Of course, a salaried worker is at a disadvantage here as the company sets whatever hours they wish.  Teachers, for example, are required to do do lunch and bus duty outside of their normal work activity and hours, or even attend and work evening/weekend functions at the school that have nothing to do with teaching their class.

      1. My Esoteric profile image90
        My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        We agree on something!!!

        In many industries, there are nice benefits that go along with downsides of salaried, exempt status.  Somehow, I don't think education is one of those industries.

    2. Credence2 profile image86
      Credence2posted 2 years ago in reply to this

      I have a problem with the "standby concept"' where the employer wants you to be on call without pay, paying only doing actual work. If you are tying up my time, my having to be sober and available for my employer, I need to be paid for it!

      1. wilderness profile image96
        wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Good point.  Although there are lots of jobs where work load is so variable that employees cannot be "on the job" enough to provide for all emergencies, it is badly overused, IMO.

        Doctors, or fire fighters, are an example where it is necessary to maintain an "on call" list.  And "waiter" might be an example where one is used, but is hardly necessary.

        1. Credence2 profile image86
          Credence2posted 2 years ago in reply to this

          Yeah, by all means, certain occupations require this arrangement based on their very nature. But these professionals are much of the time salaried and well paid to take account of this requirement. It is the penny-enny outfit that hired the waiters and such that get nickeled and dimed and its not fair.

      2. My Esoteric profile image90
        My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        I had to deal with that in my company.  The rule was IF the on-call status substantially interferes with an employee's ability to conduct non-work related activities, like going to the theater, then they were on the clock.  Otherwise they weren't.  Most of the time our "on-call" employees fell into that category.  The biggest problem we had was in getting them to clock in and out when they took a call (the work was night dispatching.)

      3. My Esoteric profile image90
        My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        There is one other status called "salaried, non-exempt".  This was for employees whose work hours were indeterminate so the company and employee agree on some sort of salary, say $2,000/mo.  That is what they get paid regardless of the hours they work up to normal overtime thresholds.  If there is overtime, it is calculated in a rather funky way.  Finally, unless an employee takes non-accrued leave of some sort, they get the salary regardless of how few hours they work.

        1. Credence2 profile image86
          Credence2posted 2 years ago in reply to this

          The solution here seems a bit more fair. As I see it, being on standby is always an imposition because it has to affect non-work activities by its very nature, its much like sitting on pins and needles wondering when THAT call will come. Even if they never call, it is the fear of what do you do and what are you involved if and  when they do call.

    3. Don W profile image80
      Don Wposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      If they were not hired to do it, and they are not being paid to do it, then that time constitutes their free time. If they choose not to spend 25 minutes of their free time doing a security check for Amazon, then they are free to bypass it and leave. It needs a group of brave souls to do exactly that, and then dare Amazon to fire them. Unless I've missed something.

      1. wilderness profile image96
        wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Not likely.  No right to work state can bar the lay off (lay off, not firing) for any reason or none.  Anyone not consenting to be searched will be laid off, and the company could probably make a good case in the unemployment office for being fired for cause.

        I don't like it, I think it's crap, but it is what it is.

        1. My Esoteric profile image90
          My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          That would be an interesting discussion between Amazon and the UE office.  "We fired them because they refused to work for free", lol. 

          In any case, I suspect the search was a condition of employment; you don't want spend your own time getting searched by us, then don't ask for the job.

          I don't fault the Justices for their decision, one that probably really grated on the more liberal members, but the law seems to tie their hands.  It is up to Congress to do something and that's not likely since more than 1/2 would side with Amazon anyway.

          Its stuff like this which keeps reminding why I think large corporation are the bad guys and need reigning in.  While they are legal, they are unethical.

          1. wilderness profile image96
            wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            But I DO fault the justices for their decision.  If (and I think you're right) that a search is a condition of employment, required to work there, then it should be paid for.  It becomes a part of the job, and IS an integral part of the work to be performed.  I see the idea that the search wasn't part of the work to be paid for a complete weasel job; like saying that cleaning up after painting a house isn't part of the job, either.  I've had too many jobs (maybe the SC needs to do some physical labor), with too many different tasks, to think that a company hires ONLY for a specific task. 

            As far as reigning in corporations because of this; they follow the law just as the employees do.  Employees are quite happy to skirt the line and get by with whatever they can, just like the other half of the contract is, and to go after only one side is ludicrous.

            1. Don W profile image80
              Don Wposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              Yes but all the power is on one side. It's like David and Goliath, but David doesn't have his sling.

              1. wilderness profile image96
                wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                True.  Unions have the power to completely shut down a company, but a company never has that much power.  Unfair, but again it is what it is.

                And truthfully, after 45+ years in the workforce, I find that companies and workers balance out fairly well.  The pendulum is never static, but seldom gets as far out of whack as it did during the recent recession.  Even then, it always swings back and suddenly the shoe is on the other foot.

                1. My Esoteric profile image90
                  My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  So it would be your opinion a worker's right to strike (used very little over the course of time) is as powerful as the employer's right to fire unjustly (which happens 100s of times a day).

                  Employers have been so effective in wiping out competition from its employees that a less than 7% of all private sector workers belong to unions; and it is getting smaller.

                  In the last 20 years there have 458 work stoppages involving more than 1000 people.  That sounds like a lot until you realize that only accounts for less than 1% of available working time. 

                  And how many companies were hurt by these strikes?  Well, that is hard to tell, but there is a little less than 18,000 corporations with 500 or more employees; in 20 years.  That means (and these are very rough figures) that there is a 0.1% chance of a major corporation (who are the ones who have union workers, if they have any) being struck in any given year.

                  In comparison, there have been ~183,000 mass lay-offs from 1995 through 2006 for an average of a little less than 17,000 mass layoff events each year.
                  That equates to 20 million people laid-off during that same period or and average of 1.8 million people involved in mass lay-offs each year.  Given the average employed was 98 million, that means almost 2% of the workforce was laid off each year by employers.

                  Now tell me, who was more disruptive, those with the power to fire or those with the power to strike (all 7% of them).  The shoe has never been on labor's foot, except in rare instances, not in the history of the U.S.  Hell, in the early days, corporations got the federal military and state troopers to come in and bust up strikes for them.  When has labor ever gotten that kind of help from the government?

                  1. wilderness profile image96
                    wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    First, can you define "fire unjustly"? 

                    Second, on the one hand you want to look ONLY at huge strikes, but at individuals laid off.  Hardly seems a reasonable comparison - how about if we look at big strikes vs "unjust" layoffs of over 1,000 (business failing doesn't count for obvious reasons.

                    Puts a little different spin on it doesn't it?  Employees have the capability to shut down companies any time they wish - that they seldom do is is that not too many of them are that stupid.  Some yes - I've known companies shut down permanently by unions demanding wages that just weren't there.  But normally the objective is to squeeze the company for every dime the union can get out of them.

                2. My Esoteric profile image90
                  My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  Yes, companies do have the power to lock out workers and they have used it many times; the latest examples are the sports leagues.

              2. My Esoteric profile image90
                My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                Didn't see this, @Don W; well said.

        2. t aaron brown profile image79
          t aaron brownposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          If your company tells you to take a UA (piss test), depending on contract you do it. What if the medical provider (subcontractor) is short staffed and the wait period goies from 10 minutes to an hour? Who pays who for excess time? This was the other argument. Screenings are done via subcontractor and their mismanagement of staff or circumstances lead to prolonged screening times that Amazon was not liable for.

          1. My Esoteric profile image90
            My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            Depends on the contract, but the ethical answer is the employer pays.  If they were sent to Quest or Lab Corp or the like, it is very possible the wait is long, and it has nothing to do with mismanagement, it's just the way they does business.

            1. t aaron brown profile image79
              t aaron brownposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              That last part is the same argument though. You can't really guarantee that Quest is fully staffed each day. There will be delays beyond your employer's control. The wait will very. 

              The other analogy would be a work commute on a toll roadway or perhaps the millions that cross into Cali via Mexico each day on the work commute. No employer will pay for time extended in the security line. This is a bit of a stretch, but it begins to address the commute vs work task debate.

              1. My Esoteric profile image90
                My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                It seems to me there is a substantive difference between the time spent getting to work (the employer could care less whether you got home). a requirement if you want to get paid, and the time spent waiting due to an employer required task that you would not normally do on you own to earn an income. 

                You would always choose to get to work, which lets the employer off the hook for paying for the wait time.  But you would never voluntarily take a drug test, or in this case, get screened.  To me, that is a huge difference and is what should obligate the employer to pay for the time they make the employee wait, even though it is not directly their fault.  Nevertheless, if they didn't require the screening, there wouldn't have been any wait time.  If they put out, then they need to charge the screening company for the cost.

            2. t aaron brown profile image79
              t aaron brownposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              The other part I think of issue was mentioned in the SCOTUS opinion. There are other employers that use screenings. This ruling would stifle the greater economy.  What I think they had in mind were the countless government/private contracts that do pre-checks before entry.  I had a colleague that supervised the cleaning crew (all disabled) for a high clearance location.  There are many employers that screen before and after work. Amazon and their subcontractor argued that the delays were  anomalies.

    4. KFlippin profile image60
      KFlippinposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      Oh darn, what a tragedy.

  2. t aaron brown profile image79
    t aaron brownposted 2 years ago

    So is the differential being what you quantify as required or not? That concept was part of the case law they drew upon. It's not so simple. For example, a hard hat is required on a construction site; so is a hammer (for some). Who pays for these required items? A uniform is required for some work sites. Who payes for the laundry? Parting out the expenses is an old back and forth struggle. The employer simply does not pay for all required preliminary tasks, equipment, etc. Rather it is the employee that contractually agrees to take on this detriment. The option would be to subtract these tools and time from net wages and see if you could beat that working somewhere else.

    1. My Esoteric profile image90
      My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      - A 2008 OSHA ruling requires employers to pay for safety related equipment.
      - It is clear from the FLSA rules they INTENDED for uniform expenses to be picked up by the employer in most cases.  A judge in 1960 ruled that the law was not clear enough and decided that in most cases, an employer does not, but not all, like service employees who earn less than the minimum wage.
      - "Tools of the trade", however, is a different matter because the employee is selling a skill and part of that skill are the tools they use.  So it makes sense that when an employer hires a skilled worker, then they are hiring their tools as well.

      It still boils down to the ethics, or lack thereof, of the employer and taking advantage of the much less powerful employee who isn't in any position to bargain; especially today; maybe when unemployment is 4% but not when it is 6.8% and a lot of those are involuntary part-time.

    2. Don W profile image80
      Don Wposted 2 years ago in reply to this

      The SCOTUS ruled that the test for whether preliminary or postliminary activities are paid for by an employer, is not whether something is required by the employer, but whether something is "integral and indispensable" to an employee doing their job. So employees who have to spend time putting on safety equipment to perform their role can expect their employer to pay for that time, as this activity is integral to being able to do the job. Security screenings are not integral to the task of picking and packing products in a warehouse, so according to current legislation, employees can have no reasonable expectation of payment for that time.

      So the judgment is technically correct, but I think the test should be redefined. In my opinion employers should be required to pay for: any preliminary or postliminary activities that are integral and indispensable to an employee doing the job they are contracted to do (safely) OR any activity that solely and directly benefits the employer alone. This would capture everything captured by the current test, but also things like the Amazon security screening, which only directly benefit the employer, to the detriment of the employees. It would also exclude things like travelling to work which can obviously be shown to directly benefit both the the employer and the employee.

      Problem is that there is slim to no chance of getting a law amended in favour of ordinary workers at the expense of big business, as big business currently owns congress.

      1. My Esoteric profile image90
        My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

        Absotutely!  However, the 9 - 0, bi-partisan ruling was their interpretation of current federal law and regulations; there was no doubt in their collective mind what the law said.  But, that doesn't mean the law/regulation shouldn't be changed, and it should be.

        But, as you conclude, with the current configuration of Congress, the law will not be changed.  But that doesn't mean DOL couldn't change the regulation so long as it isn't prohibited by language within the authorizing law.

        1. Don W profile image80
          Don Wposted 2 years ago in reply to this

          Indeed, but I envisage that it would be challenged in court on those very grounds, and there would need to be a ruling as to whether the change by the DOL was within the bounds of the authorizing law. Still worth a try.

          Would be interesting to campaign for an outright amendment though, just to highlight the extent of the difficulty in amending laws in favour of ordinary people vs corporate persons. Can you imagine, all the corporate lobbying power of Amazon and other big businesses, against a group of workers from a warehouse. Such an underdog story might capture a few people's imagination.

          1. wilderness profile image96
            wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            You've got my support.  Any requirement by an employer that requires time or effort from an employee should be compensable.

          2. My Esoteric profile image90
            My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

            Absolutely true, but if any Department is on the side of the employee, it is DOL and they are the ones who write the rules concerning this matter.  One possible venue is petitions to those Congress people who support fair play (yes, pay as well) for employees to get them to put pressure on DOL for a rule change.

            1. jgshorebird profile image88
              jgshorebirdposted 2 years ago in reply to this

              If an employee feels that he or she is not being paid for time on duty, the solution is to quit. Get another job. Or work for yourself. This has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. Vote with your feet and stop whining.

              1. My Esoteric profile image90
                My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                This is always a pat and unrealistic reply.  The ONLY time it is applicable is when unemployment is below the natural rate.  In that case, and only that case, does the employee have the "real world" options you suggest.  Any other time, you are spouting unachievable theory.

                And it absolutely haves everything to do with Conservative and Democrats for the former believe in and make policy from your unreal world theory while Democrats make policy based on the real world situation.

                1. wilderness profile image96
                  wildernessposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                  "Democrats make policy based on the real world situation."

                  When did unlimited resources and money become the real world?

                  1. My Esoteric profile image90
                    My Esotericposted 2 years ago in reply to this

                    They don't rely on unlimited resources and money, that is unfounded Conservative propaganda not based on reality.   Explain the skyrocketing deficits caused by Reagan and Bush 43.  Yes, Obama suffered from what Bush started and was required to add to it in order to fix the previous administration's screw up.  Since fixing the debacle, Obama has brought deficits down.

 
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