From a Salon interview with Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel and program director for the National Employment Law Project comes this case being argued today in the Supreme’s Court: Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk
We tend not to hear much about Supreme Court cases until there’s an imminent ruling, much less before oral arguments have begun. So could you give me a quick overview of the case?
Sure. This is a case that’s been brought by Amazon warehouse workers who were working in a warehouse in Nevada and who at the end of their shift every day were required to go through an anti-theft screening in the warehouse that took workers as much as 25 or more minutes to get through.
So the workers brought a lawsuit against the staffing company that Amazon has [contracted] to recruit and hire the workers, it’s called Integrity Staffing [Solutions], and sued to try to get paid for the time they stood in line at the end of their shifts The [United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit] said the workers should get paid for that time, and the employer appealed and the Supreme Court has now taken the case.
The argument for the workers seems pretty intuitive to me; if you’re doing something because of your employer’s demand, you should, within reason, be compensated for your time. What’s Integrity’s argument in response?
The employer and, surprisingly, the government are saying that because the duties are not “integral and indispensable” to the regular duties that the workers are performing, the work isn’t compensable. So they’re trying to carve out of any duties that workers would perform whether or not it’s at the direction of the employer — or for the benefit of the employer — if they’re not “integral and indispensable” then you don’t have to get paid for it.
Are you getting this? Do you get this line of argument? This is a perfect, dictionary ready example of just what is wrong with our legal system. That anyone can possibly look at the employer/employee relationship and consider a line of reasoning that parses out that relationship such that the legal concept of the “common man” understanding is no longer a valid legal principle just shows how little if there is any regard for the concept of the rule of law is present today.
But worse is that We the People, or at least those who are acting as stand ins for us have decided that the proper position, the one We the People would choose if voted on is the one that states an employer can pay you or not depending on just how close to the assembly line you are for the present activity you are doing.