August 3, 2020

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August 03, 2020

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Sixth Circuit Certifies Pennsylvania Security-Screening Comp Question

Several suits by Amazon workers seeking pay for time spent in security screening have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in the Western District of Kentucky. In one of the putative state-law class actions, Pennsylvania-based workers argue that under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, Amazon owes them for the several minutes per shift they spend in screening.

The district court dismissed the claim, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, which held that such “screening is a noncompensable postliminary activity under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

But the workers—in the fourth appeal (so far) to reach the Sixth Circuit from this MDL—contend that Busk does not apply to the PMWA. On Monday, a Sixth Circuit panel (Griffin writing; Merritt and Daughtrey joining) granted their motion to certify this question to Pennsylvania’s highest court.

Judge Griffin’s opinion reminded the bar that certification is a discretionary determination that is “most appropriate when the question is new and state law is unsettled.” Interestingly, the Sixth Circuit previously declined to certify a similar question to the Kentucky Supreme Court, but distinguished that decision on the ground (among others) that Kentucky law was “in-circuit” and therefore more familiar. Less familiar and more “distant” Pennsylvania law militated in favor of certification. Apparently, it was a prime day for judicial federalism.

In addition to the question whether screening time is compensable under the PMWA, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also faces a second certified question: whether time spent in screening is a “split-second absurdit[y]” that should be disregarded as de minimis.

Co-Authored by Barrett Block

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 311

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Benjamin Beaton Litigation Attorney Squire Patton Boggs Cincinnati, OH
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Benjamin Beaton is co-chair of the Appellate & Supreme Court Practice. He handles complex appeals, regulatory disputes and law-intensive trial proceedings. Ben has authored more than a dozen briefs at the US Supreme Court, where he previously served as a law clerk. He has drafted dozens more in the federal courts of appeal and state supreme courts, and regularly confers with trial and in-house counsel regarding appellate and motions strategy. Chambers has noted the firm’s “well-resourced appellate team, with notable experience in disputes heard before the Sixth Circuit.” The...

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