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By: Justin Boron
A security check at work is no trifle when it comes to paying hourly workers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held. Justices voted 5-2 in In Re Amazon Fulfillment Center to hold that time spent waiting in security checks is compensable under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act and that there is no de minimis exception in the PMWA.
The holding stands in contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the same issue under the Fair Labor Standards Act that such time was not compensable. Absent a change in practices, Amazon workers in Pennsylvania will receive compensation for time spent waiting in security. But the decision likely will have broader significance to employees across the state who spend negligible amounts of uncompensated time preparing to go to work at the worksite.
Without a de minimis exception, a plaintiff could ostensibly file a class action lawsuit under the PMWA to recover for mere minutes of lost time for the plaintiff and class members. The PMWA would make those suits worth their while because like the FLSA, the PMWA has a fee-shifting provision that would allow plaintiff’s attorneys to recover fees that could potentially far outstrip any award or recovery for the class members.
Employers should be on guard about any uncompensated downtime that is not expressly authorized by the PMWA and that employees spend at work to avoid the risk of a de minimis lawsuit.