Amazon Supreme Court Victory Highlights the Need for HR Ethics Online Courses

Last month the United States Supreme Court held that employees working at Amazon shipping facilities did not have to be compensated for time spent in post-shift security checks. Essentially, Supreme Court Justices said that extra time spent in the security checkpoints was unrelated to the employees’ job duties, and therefore was non-compensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act. The December 2014 decision is seen as a widespread victory for employers in the wage and hour war. Good news? Maybe not.

According to the opinion, employees at the Amazon facility were forced to spend approximately 25 minutes in the security checkpoints at issue. When these individuals submitted the time to the staffing company who brought them to Amazon they were not compensated. Understandably, the unpaid time sitting in a line frustrated a group of the employees, and they ultimately brought a lawsuit. Although management had success in the courtroom, lawsuits like these can cause company reputations to take a hit, and make them less attractive places for talented employees to work from top to bottom.

Granted, this case was seen as having the potential to spur billions of dollars of back pay across several companies facing similar lawsuits and is an economic victory for employers. However, it is necessary to understand how the ethics behind such policies impact employee morale and business as a whole. First, work-life balance is disrupted when employees are forced to perform duties at work “off the clock.” For example, if an employee is forced to sit 25 minutes in a security line while her family is waiting at home with dinner on the table there is going to be some understandable frustration.

Furthermore, policies that cause ethical outrage and simply “seem” wrong (despite the legality) demonstrate a management style that is untrustworthy and unethical. For example, if employees can’t trust their employer to pay them for time spent at work, how can they be sure that management is not engaged in other workplace misconduct like discrimination and harassment? All of this leads employees to be more litigious and more likely to file suspect complaints and frivolous lawsuits as a means of getting back at the employer.

When managers are properly trained in ethical practices they are far more likely to have the psychological understanding of the bases for employee complaints, and are far more likely to make and implement sound policies that consider the interests of all of the employees at the forefront, thereby keeping morale high and the risk of frivolous charges low. When you try and save money by cutting employee pay (regardless of whether you are legally “right” or not) you are very likely to end up losing in the long run.

Syntrio understands the need to balance costs with employee morale and ethical behavior. Therefore, we can help train your managers on the nuances of the law that will help formulate effective policies that keep you compliant with the law, and at the forefront of business ethics.  

Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!


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