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Worker sues Amazon over lengthy security searches without pay

A Pennsylvania man is suing digital retail giant because he says the company is putting its employees through rigorous security searches, without pay.

The class action suit was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 27 by attorneys for Winebrake & Santillo LLC on behalf of Neal Heimbach of Allentown, Pa.

Heimbach has served as a warehouse worker at Amazon’s logistics facility in Breinigsville, Pa. -- just ten miles from Allentown -- since 2010. He is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 because he claims the company required its more than 100 employees at the facility to undergo lengthy security searches.

According to the filing, employees of the Breinigsville facility are required to go through an extensive security search process, which includes a walk through metal detectors and a manual search of employees’ bags or personal items.

Employees of the facility are subject to this screening process, which can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete, both prior to their clocking out for 30-minute lunch breaks and prior to their exiting the facility at the end of a work day.

The time employees spend getting searched upon exit, does not come with pay. That is why Heimbach is suing.

“Defendants have never paid Warehouse Workers for time spent proceeding through this required post-shift screening process prior to exiting the Amazon Fulfillment Center,” the filing states.

“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.”

Heimbach’s suit, which was filed on behalf of all “warehouse workers” of the Breinigsville Amazon facility, claims that Amazon's failure to pay employees for time spent going through the security screening process is a direct violation of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act.

“Defendants have violated the PMWA with respect to Plaintiff and the Class by, inter alia, 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 filing states.

“In violating the PMWA, Defendants acted willfully and with reckless disregard of clearly applicable PMWA provisions.”

Why does Amazon put its employees through such a thorough search? Well, Amazon has had its share of thieving employees.

In 2012, an Amazon employee reportedly stole more than $160,000 in electronics and merchandise from a distribution center in South Carolina.

Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., a Delaware corporation which is listed as a co-defendant in the suit, has yet to speak publicly about the filing or confirm whether the company agrees with Amazon’s employee theft-prevention methods. A spokesman for Integrity Staffing said the company had “nothing additional to contribute at this time.”

To date, Amazon’s off-the-clock security checks have led to lawsuits being filed by employees in Nevada, Washington, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. All of the suits, in some way, challenge the company’s employee theft-prevention practices.