Back in 1999, when I was in law school in Washington DC, I went with my buddy to see The Matrix at the Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park. At the time, the Uptown was one of the best places around to watch an action flick. And what better movie to see than The Matrix — one of my top 10 movies of all time.
WTH does this have to do with the Fair Labor Standards Act?
[Humor me and click through, would ya?]
Waxing philosophical about The Matrix and the FLSA
Well, during the lobby scene where Neo and Trinity pass through security (mute your speakers at 0:26), I turn to my buddy, and I’m all like,
“Hey dude! Could you imagine if Neo and Trinity worked for the Matrix in this building as non-exempt employees?”
Now this is clearly stupid on my part. Neo’s alter ego, Mr. Anderson, is probably exempt under the “Computer-Employee” exemption. Obviously, Neo is going to be exempt under any number of FLSA exemptions. He’s friggin’ Neo, people! And I assume that Trinity qualifies as a learned professional. But, ok, whatever. Work with me, folks.
“And what if, with so many Agent Smiths ahead of them, the line to get into the building through security took like 10 or even 20 minutes? Does the Matrix have to pay Neo and Trinity for the time they spend in line? Could this affect their overtime pay? OMG! ZOMG!!”
My friends, much like the prescient *** googles “prescient” *** yes, prescient Oracle, I knew that it was only a matter of time before this Fair Labor Standards Act conundrum flummoxed employers.
A modern-day non-exempt Neo
Last week, a Pennsylvania man filed a class-action suit against Amazon.com, claiming that his employer did not compensate its employees, who are subject to a screening process when leaving work, for the 10 to 20 minutes it can take to pass through security.
According to this report from NBCNews.com, the plaintiff alleges that, “As a result of the compensation practice utilized by Defendants, Warehouse Workers are not compensated for all time during which they were required to be on the premises of the Amazon Fulfillment Center.”
Therefore, the plaintiff claims that “Defendants have violated the [Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act by] failing to compensate them for all hours worked both after their paid shifts and during their unpaid 30 minute break, and failing to pay them the legally mandated overtime premium for such work on those occasions where their work exceeded 40 hours in a workweek.”
The Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act is the state counterpart to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Presumably, to keep the case in state court, the lawsuit omits claims under the FLSA.
Similar actions are presently pending against Amazon.com in Nevada and Washington. According to Ryan Simmons at the Tennessee Employment Lawyer Blog, another action against Amazon there just settled.
An FLSA red flag for employers
If you operate a facility, which utilizes security lines for employees only (as opposed to employees and the public), then you’ll want to keep close eye on this line of Amazon cases, as well as this case against Apple.