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U.S. Supreme Court Unanimously Holds Post-Shift Security Screenings Not Compensable Under FLSA

Volume 13, Issue 18
December 9, 2014

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a rare unanimous opinion in the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk holding that time spent by employees waiting to complete a required security screening at the end of their work shift was not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Justice Thomas delivered the opinion for the Court.

The employer in the case, Integrity Staffing Solutions, provides warehouse staffing to Amazon.com. The job duties of these hourly warehouse employees included the retrieval and packaging of products for delivery to Amazon's customers. At the end of the shift, Integrity required its employees to undergo a security screening in which they would remove keys, wallets and belts and pass through metal detectors. Employees at warehouses in both Las Vegas and Fernley, Nevada claimed they had to wait as long as 25 minutes each day to complete the security screening without being paid for such time. As a result, they filed a putative class action under the FLSA and Nevada law seeking compensation for the time spent waiting for and undergoing the security screenings.

The lower court dismissed the suit, finding that the time was not compensable. The employees appealed, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Nevada, reversed the dismissal. According to the Ninth Circuit Court, the security screenings were "necessary" to the employees' primary work and done for their employer's benefit.

Integrity appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately held - unanimously - that "[t]he security screenings at issue here are noncompensable postliminary activities." The Supreme Court began its analysis by focusing on the Portal-to-Portal Act which holds that preliminary and postliminary activities to the principal activity an employee is employed to perform are generally not compensable.

The Supreme Court stated that it has consistently interpreted the term "principal activity" to include all activities which are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activity. For example, a meatpacker's preliminary activity of sharpening knives was held compensable because the knife sharpening process was integral to the effective and safe performance of the employee's duties in cutting meat. Postliminary activities where chemical plant employees shower and change clothes because of the toxic nature of the chemicals they were exposed to were also compensable.

By contrast here, the security screening process had no such relationship to the warehouse workers' primary duties in retrieving inventory and packaging it for delivery to customers. While the employer may have required the screenings to deter potential theft, that alone did not render the time compensable.

Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.