Amazon workers sue over theft screenings

With all the concern about retail theft–especially insider theft–it is surprising that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) employees are raising a fuss over routine theft screenings.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week in the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, in which Amazon warehouse workers allege that it is unfair that they are required to stand in line to be screened for stolen goods after each of their shifts. The process can take 20 minutes or more, and the workers do not get paid for that extra time.

Integrity, the temp firm that helps staff Amazon's warehouses, argues that theft screenings are not "integral and indispensable" to employees' work, so it shouldn't have to pay workers for the time.

However, employees often waited 25 minutes at one of Amazon's Nevada warehouses, according to Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, who sued Integrity in 2010.

Whether or not employees get paid for the screening is not the most important issue. It is essential that Amazon conduct these theft screenings to look out for its bottom line. Even if Integrity and Amazon split the cost of the time for employees standing in line, it is a better and more cost-effective measure than the alternative. Imagine the bad publicity and earnings loss that would occur if warehouse workers managed to pull off a major theft ring. It is certainly not unheard of in the retail industry, and it is naïve to think that it could not happen at Amazon.

In fact, Amazon recently defended the theft screening practice. "…Data shows that employees walk through post shift security screening with little or no wait," an Amazon spokesperson told Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court case could have much broader implications for all retailers and other businesses.

For example, a retailer could decline to pay a cashier for the time spent tallying cash in the register at the end of the day, on the grounds that it isn't a vital part of the job, according to Eric Schnapper, a law professor at the University of Washington who is part of the team representing the Integrity workers. 

"There are lots of things they could have you do and save money by doing that…It would mean pay cuts for a lot of people," Schnapper said.

For more:
-See this Huffington Post article

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