U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Post-Work Security Check is Not Compensable

In this edition of A Moment On TimeTM, Vantage reports on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk (“Integrity”).  In this case, the Court ruled that time spent by employees waiting for and undergoing security screenings after the end of their shifts is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

The Case

Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. provides warehouse workers to Amazon.com. These workers are responsible for retrieving products from the shelves and packaging them for delivery at Amazon’s various warehouses. Integrity required that their workers undergo anti-theft security screenings after their shift ended and after they clocked out for the day, but before they left the warehouse.

Former employees filed a class action lawsuit against Integrity stating that they should have been paid for the time they had to wait to undergo the security screenings. They alleged that they spent up to 25 minutes a day to comply with Integrity’s requirement.

The Supreme Court Decision

In Integrity, the Supreme Court relied heavily on the Portal-to-Portal Act, which amended the FLSA, and provides that those “activities which are preliminary or postliminary to”  (i.e. before and after the workday proper) the performance of the principal activities that an employee must perform are not compensable. “Principal activities’ are those that are integral and indispensable to the intrinsic nature of the job duties.

Using this standard, the Court decided that the purpose for which Integrity employed warehouse workers was to retrieve and package products and that the security screenings were neither integral nor indispensible to those job duties.  Therefore, the Court concluded that the security screenings were postliminary to the principal activities and not compensable. The Court reasoned that Integrity could have eliminated the security screenings without affecting the workers’ ability to complete the tasks of retrieving and packaging products.

In this decision, the Court made a distinction between work that is required by an employer versus the intrinsic nature of the work. The Court clarified that the test for compensability must focus on the intrinsic nature of the work being performed, not the requirements set forth by the employer.

Impact on Employers

In light of this decision, employers need to make careful assessments about whether employees pre and post-shift activities are integral and indispensable to the job duties and thus constitute a principal activity that must be compensable.  Employers who automatically compensate for all pre or postliminary activities may be over-spending, while those who have a blanket policy against paying for any pre or postliminary activities may underpay employees and find themselves out of compliance with the FLSA .

In order to make these assessments, which must be done on a case by case basis, employers would be well advised to ensure their job descriptions accurately reflect the principal activities of each job, that employees are made aware of their principal activities and educated about any pre or post-shift activity for which they will not be paid, and that any employer-required activities for which there will be no payment align to the FLSA and the Supreme Court’s decisions.