DECEMBER 11, 2014
In a highly-anticipated employment law case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that time spent by employees who undergo employer-required post-shift security screenings is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. vs. Busk, the employer, Integrity Staffing Solutions (“Integrity”), required its hourly warehouse employees, whose job was to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package them for delivery to Amazon.com customers, to undergo security screenings prior to leaving the workplace at the end of their shifts. Integrity implemented the security screenings to prevent employee theft. Several former employees sued Integrity, claiming that the time spent undergoing the post-shift security screenings, which lasted approximately twenty-five (25) minutes each day, was compensable under the FLSA.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of Integrity, holding that the post-shift security screenings were non-compensable under the FLSA. In its opinion, the Court emphasized that the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 was passed by Congress to better define the terms “work” and “workweek,” as used in the FLSA. Specifically, the Court stated that the Portal-to-Portal Act exempted employers from liability for claims based on “activities which are preliminary or postliminary” to the performance of the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform. In prior cases, the Supreme Court had defined the term “principal activities” as including all activities which are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.” Those cases further explained that an activity is “integral and indispensable” if it is an intrinsic element of the employee’s principal activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.
Applying that law to the Integrity case, the Supreme Court held that the post-shift security screenings required by Integrity were non-compensable postliminary activities because they were not the principal activities the former employees were employed to perform — retrieving products from warehouse shelves and packaging them for delivery — and were not “integral and indispensable” to those activities. The court disagreed with the former employees’ argument that the focus should be on the fact that the security screenings were “required” by Integrity, noting that such focus would sweep into “principal activities” the very activities that the Portal-to-Portal Act was designed to exclude from compensation.
As a result of Integrity, employers can continue existing (or implement new) post-shift security screenings to prevent employee theft without concerns about potential FLSA liability.