On March 10, 2023, a unanimous three-judge panel upheld an Oregon federal court’s ruling that time Amazon employees spent undergoing mandatory security screenings before and after work shifts and off-premises meal breaks was not compensable, as the screenings were not integral and indispensable to their jobs under state law.
Plaintiff, Lindsey Buero, filed a class action in 2019 against Amazon, alleging that the online retailer failed to compensate employees for time spent waiting for and passing through mandatory security screenings before and after work shifts and off-premises meal breaks in violation of Oregon’s wage and hour laws. The District Court entered summary judgment in favor of Amazon, which prompted plaintiff’s appeal. Due to the lack of precedent under Oregon law, the Ninth Circuit certified a question to the Oregon Supreme Court: “Under Oregon Law, is time that employees spend on the employer’s premises waiting for and undergoing mandatory security screenings compensable?”
The Oregon Supreme Court held that Oregon law aligns with federal law regarding what constitutes compensable activities, meaning that, as is the case under the Portal-to-Portal Act, time spent by employees waiting for and undergoing mandatory security screenings before or after their work shifts is only compensable if those screenings are either “(1) an integral and indispensable part of the employees’ principal activities or (2) compensable as a matter of contract, custom, or practice.” The Ninth Circuit panel held that because the complaint failed to allege that the mandatory security screenings were integral or indispensable to their jobs, neither exception applied, and the district court’s ruling was correct.
The Ninth Circuit noted that, although the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision did not specially address the plaintiff’s meal-period claim “the logic of [the] opinion yields the same result.” The panel observed that, under Oregon law, employees must be “relieved of all duties” during meal breaks, which aligns with the comparable federal regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 785.19(a).