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In re Amazon.com, Inc., Fulfillment Center Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wage and Hour Litigation

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

June 20, 2017

IN RE AMAZON.COM, INC., FULFILLMENT CENTER FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT (FLSA) AND WAGE AND HOUR LITIGATION THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO: Saldana, et al.
v.
Amazon.com, LLC, et al., No. 3:14-cv-290-DJH Master File No. 3:14-md-2504

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID J. HALE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Khadijah Robertson, the sole remaining plaintiff in this case, seeks compensation under California law from Defendants Amazon.com, LLC and Golden State FC, LLC, for time she spent undergoing or waiting to undergo security screenings at the Amazon facility where she worked. Amazon and Golden State have moved for summary judgment on Robertson's claims, arguing that time related to security checks is not compensable as “hours worked” under California's labor law. (Docket No. 64; see D.N. 64-1, PageID # 933-39) In the alternative, Amazon and Golden State contend that the time spent on the searches was de minimis and is therefore noncompensable. (D.N. 64-1, PageID # 939-43) Because Robertson has failed to show that there are “hours worked” for which she was not paid, the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I.

         The following facts are undisputed. Robertson was employed by Amazon for approximately three months in late 2013 at an Amazon fulfillment center in San Bernardino, California. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 960) She had worked there previously in 2013 and 2012 as a temporary employee of SMX, LLC.[1] (Id.)

         To prevent theft, Amazon required all employees to walk through a metal detector on their way out of the building. (D.N. 64-3, PageID # 950-51; D.N. 64-8, PageID # 975) Of the ten metal detectors at the facility, four were “express lanes” for employees not carrying bags or metal objects. (D.N. 64-3, PageID # 951) Passing through security without personal items added no time to employees' exit from the building. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 1012; D.N. 64-10, PageID # 1022; D.N. 64-11, PageID # 1026; D.N. 64-12, PageID # 1029-30) Employees carrying bags or metal objects had to send those items down a ramp and were subject to search. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 1008-10; D.N. 64-10, PageID # 1022; D.N. 64-11, PageID # 1125-26) Robertson was not required to carry any items through security that would have set off the metal detectors. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 988-90) Lockers were available to employees outside the secure area; however, Robertson chose to carry her keys through security every day. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 961-63) She also opted to leave the secure area for lunch and rest breaks although the interior break rooms had microwaves, vending machines, and refrigerators. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 996-1000)

         II.

         Summary judgment is required when the moving party shows, using evidence in the record, “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see 56(c)(1). For purposes of summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580, 588 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, the Court “need consider only the cited materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); see Shreve v. Franklin Cty., Ohio, 743 F.3d 126, 136 (6th Cir. 2014). If the nonmoving party “fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), ” the fact may be treated as undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)-(3). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to each element of each of her claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986) (noting that “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial”).

         For purposes of the present motion, the primary dispute is whether time spent in security screenings amounts to “hours worked” under California law. (See D.N. 64-1, PageID # 933; D.N. 78, PageID # 1309) The relevant California wage order defines “hours worked” as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11040 (2017). A plaintiff may prove her entitlement to compensation under either the “control” prong or the “suffered or permitted” prong of the definition. See Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 995 P.2d 139, 143 (Cal. 2000).

         The United States District Court for the Northern District of California recently applied the “hours worked” definition in a case involving facts similar to those presented here. In Frlekin v. Apple Inc., No. C 13-03451, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151937 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 2015), the plaintiffs

s[ought] compensation for time spent undergoing exit searches pursuant to Apple's bag-search and technology-card search policies and for time spent waiting for such searches to occur. These searches occurred when employees left the premises with a bag, purse, backpack, or briefcase, or with an Apple product, such as an iPhone.

Id. at *4. After clocking out, plaintiffs with a bag or Apple device had to find a manager or security guard to conduct the search before they could leave the store. Id. at *5-*7.

         In a thorough, well-reasoned opinion, the Frlekin court granted summary judgment for Apple. After reviewing relevant California law, the court concluded that the searches were not mandatory, since the “plaintiffs could all freely choose not to bring bags to work, thereby avoiding Apple's restrictions during exit searches, ” and thus the plaintiffs were not entitled to compensation under the “control” prong. Id. at *30; see Id. at *10-*30. Moreover, because the plaintiffs “merely passively endured” the searches and “[n]either the searches nor waiting for them to be completed had any relationship to the[ plaintiffs'] job responsibilities, ” the searches were not compensable under the “suffered or permitted” prong. Id. at *35.

         Robertson maintains that Frlekin is distinguishable. Unlike Apple's bag searches, she argues, Amazon's security screenings were mandatory for all employees; everyone had to pass through security before exiting the building. (D.N. 78, PageID # 1324-26) It is undisputed, however, that although everyone had to walk through a metal detector, employees who did not carry bags or metal objects passed through the metal detectors with no delay. (See D.N. 64-8, PageID # 1012; D.N. 64-10, PageID # 1022; D.N. 64-11, PageID # 1026; D.N. 64-12, PageID # 1029-30) Robertson chose to bring her keys into the secure area with her. (D.N. 64-8, PageID # 962-63) She also chose to leave the secure area during meal and rest breaks, taking her keys with her. (Id.; see id., PageID # 996-1000) Like the plaintiffs in Frlekin, Robertson and other Amazon employees had an option for avoiding any delay related to security checks: leave personal items outside the secure area. Cf. 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151937 at *30.

         Robertson acknowledges that Amazon employees had a choice as to “which line they had to pass through, ” and she offers no evidence to rebut the defendants' proof concerning the express-lane option. (D.N. 78, PageID # 1323) Indeed, she offers ...


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