Amazon’s warehouse workers are suing for time theft in a case involving their waiting in security lines when they exit the workplace at the end of the day. Amazon does not want to pay for this time, claiming it is exempted by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
This lawsuit demonstrates why many cases have to be brought as employment class actions. When you bring a lawsuit, you need to meet that court’s jurisdictional requirements.
For instance, in federal court, you have to have a minimum amount of money at stake, which is currently $75,000, and is known as the “amount in controversy.” There also has to be diversity of citizenship, which essentially means the two parties must be residents of different states.
If you are paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and you spend 10 minutes every day being checked by security, it would be amount to about $1.20 per day. It would take you a great many days of work to reach that $75,000 amount.
And because the individual amount is so small, it would be difficult to find an attorney who could afford to bring the case.
Amazon’s rules, however, does not affect a single worker, but tens of thousands, so they save millions of dollars every year by placing this cost on the employee as uncompensated time.
The reasons entities like the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal have such distain for class actions and class action attorneys is they know that all of these types of lawsuits would be effectively stopped, and employers and other unscrupulous entities could take advantage of individuals and never have to worry about being sued.
The Supreme Court should distinguish this type of security search, which is done exclusively for the benefit of the employer by preventing theft of products from security screenings for guns and weapons, which are performed for everyone’s benefit.
The ruling in the case will likely have broad implications for many employees, and if the workers win, it will be significant victory.
Mediamatters.org, “WSJ Shrugs Off Allegations By Amazon Staffers To Complain About Class Action Lawsuits,” Meagan Hatcher-Mays, October 8, 2014