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Supreme Court backs Amazon in latest worker dispute

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Amazon in a dispute over whether the online retailer should pay its employees for the time they spend undergoing security checks.

A lower court had previously ruled that Amazon did have to pay members of staff for the time, as the screenings were for the company’s benefit, but this has now been overruled.

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The lawyer representing the two former Amazon employees that made the complaint, Mark Thierman, expressed his “disappointment” at the result.

If Amazon had lost the case, it would likely have meant employees were entitled to back pay stretching back over a period of months or even years. The ruling will come as a relief for a number of other firms, including Apple and CVS which are both facing similar lawsuits.

Staff are required to undergo security screenings at the end of their shift in order to prevent theft, but the Supreme Court argued that it is not an integral part of their job, as the third party that engaged the employees does not hire them to stand in line.

Mr Thierman added that although federal law allows businesses to refuse payment for time spent waiting to punch a time clock, for example, most state laws do not.

"Federal law should set the highest standards for treating workers fairly," he said.

Amazon has, however, refuted the allegations made by its former employees, who claimed they regularly had to wait in line for extended periods of time.

"The allegations in this case were simply not true -- data shows that employees typically walk through security with little or no wait, and Amazon has a global process that ensures the time employees spend waiting in security is less than 90 seconds," an Amazon spokeswoman said.

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While the web giant will be pleased to have won this case, the Associated Press reports that it still faces four similar cases requesting compensation for almost 100,000 members of staff.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.