Security guards at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters were not paid for all their time spent on the job, the U.S. Department of Labor found in a recent investigation.
The department said Friday it had recovered nearly $1.1 million in back wages and damages for 778 employees following an investigation into Universal Protection Services, a global firm Amazon and others contract with for security services.
The employer would automatically deduct 45 minutes from an employee’s hours but often required those workers to remain at their post for meal breaks, regulators said. If an employee did stay at their post during a break, the employer would not adjust the worker’s hours, violating federal overtime and record-keeping laws, according to the department.
Universal Protection Services was operating as Allied Universal Security Services, a global company that works in 90 countries and employs 800,000 people. Allied Universal, which has headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and Conshohocken, Penn., provides security personnel, monitoring equipment, response units and secure prisoner transportation.
At the time of the investigation, the employer had assigned the affected employees to work on-site at Amazon’s Seattle HQ, the department said. Amazon has more than 40 buildings and 55,000 corporate employees at its Seattle campus.
“As one of the nation’s largest private-sector employers, Allied Universal Security Services has a responsibility to make sure they pay their employees all of their legally earned wages,” Thomas Silva, district director for the department’s wage and hour division in Seattle, said in a statement.
“Our investigation found the company made improper deductions from security employees’ work hours for meal breaks when, in fact, the employer often told them to remain at their posts or to work during those breaks,” Silva said.
Allied Universal said it “strongly disputed” the department’s findings and had engaged in numerous discussions with the agency about how it is “revolutionizing payroll and timekeeping compliance through technology.”
The company and the department “reached an amicable agreement,” said Kari Garcia, the director of public relations for Allied Universal. The department indicated it would “use Allied Universal as a model to encourage greater compliance throughout the private security industry,” Garcia said.
Allied Universal said the Labor Department initiated its audit in October 2020, and the investigation covered about 2,200 employees from July 1, 2019, through March 4, 2021.
In its announcement Friday, the department said it had investigated Allied Universal roughly 200 times in the past five years. In most cases, the department found the employer had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Following the most recent investigation in Seattle, the department recovered $549,947 in back wages and an equal amount in damages for the affected employees. It also issued $50,000 in civil penalties to Allied Universal.
In a separate investigation, the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs accused Allied Universal of systemic racial hiring discrimination following an inspection into the company’s hiring practices at its Houston locations in 2016 and 2017. Allied Universal agreed to pay $411,000 in back wages to roughly 1,500 Black job applicants as a result of that investigation.