Time Employees Spent Undergoing Security Screenings Was Not Compensable Work Time

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Apr 05, 2023

Lindsey Buero worked in an Amazon warehouse.  The warehouse had a secured area that contained merchandise.  As a theft-prevention measure, employees had to undergo a security screening before exiting this area.  Buero filed a class action against Amazon alleging that its failure to compensate employees for time spent waiting for and passing through the security screenings before and after work shifts and breaks violated Oregon’s wage and hour laws.

Amazon argued that this practice did not violate Oregon’s wage laws, which mirrored the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on the definition of “compensable” work time.  Under the FLSA, travel to and from the place of work, and activities that are preliminary or postliminary to the principal work that occurs before or after the workday, are not compensable work time.  The only exceptions are:  if the activities are either an integral and indispensable part of the employee’s principal activities; or compensable as a matter of contract, custom, or practice.  Amazon argued that Oregon’s wage laws fell squarely under these same federal rules.  The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with Amazon that the time was not compensable.  Buero then appealed to the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

The Ninth Court affirmed the Oregon Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court had analyzed the legislative history of Oregon’s various wage laws and determined that the legislators often based their decisions on the corresponding federal laws.  For example, when the legislature defined “Hours Worked”, it explicitly mirrored the FLSA language noted above.

Based on that foundation, the Court found that Buero had not shown that passing through the mandatory security screenings fell under one of the enumerated exceptions, and therefore the time was not compensable.

Buero v. Amazon.com Services, 61 F.4th 1031 (9th Cir. 2023).

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