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Pennsylvania employers are obligated under state law to pay workers for the time they take to go through mandatory screening, even if this takes a minimal amount of time, despite a contrary U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held Wednesday, in a divided ruling.
Amazon workers in Pennsylvania filed suit against the company on the issue in 2013, according to the 5-2 ruling in In re: Amazon.Com Inc. Fulfillment Center Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and wage and hour litigation Neal Heimbach; Karen Salasky v. Amazon.com, Inc; Amazon.Dedc, LLC; Integrity Staffing Solutions.
In December 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a unanimous ruling in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. v. Jesse Busk et al., that the Wilmington, Delaware-based firm was not obligated under the FLSA to compensate workers for the roughly 25 minutes a day they spend waiting to undergo a security screening to leave warehouses in Las Vegas and Fenley, Nevada.
The high court ruled security checks were not a “principal activity” the workers were employed to perform.
After a lower federal court ruled against the Pennsylvania workers in their case, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to consider whether state employers are liable to pay its workers for mandatory screening under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act.
The court has “recently affirmed the principle that the PMWA manifests this Commonwealth’s strong public policy protecting an employee’s right to be adequately compensated for all hours for which they work,” the majority ruling said, adding the state law “must be interpreted in accordance with its own specific terms.”
The ruling said also that under the state law, there is no “de minimis” exception to claims.
A dissenting opinion said, “I do not believe that the General Assembly would have had any such vision of the necessity for overtime compensation.”
An Amazon spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill that would allow employers to sue a third party to recover workers compensation payments.