This past year, the United States Supreme Court issued decisions in at least nine cases having significant ramifications in the workplace. These cases touched on various labor and employment issues, including whether time spent putting on protective gear is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, payment of union dues, religious exceptions to coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and—perhaps most notably—appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in the Noel Canning decision. As the Court starts its October Term, employers can expect a number of important employment decisions on the way.
On October 8, 2014, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk. The issue before the Court is whether employers must pay hourly workers for time spent waiting in line and going through mandatory end-of-shift security screenings. In particular, workers who fill orders in Amazon.com’s warehouses claimed they were required to spend up to 30 minutes each day going through security screenings, which were implemented to detect employee theft of merchandise. The workers were not paid for this time.
The Supreme Court heard the case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that this time should be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) because the screenings are an integral part of the warehouse job and done for the benefit of the employer. The warehouse company, on the other hand, focused on the fact that the security checks take place after the workday is over and do not in any way affect the duties the employees are hired to perform on the warehouse floor. Accordingly, the employer argued, the time is non-compensable—just like time spent waiting in line to clock-out at the end of a shift. The federal government and many retail groups support the employer’s position.
A decision is anticipated in the coming months and is sure to have significant implications for all employers who require their employees to participate in security screenings and various other types of pre- and post-shift activities.
In addition to the FLSA case, the Court has also agreed to review cases on: (1) when an employer must provide work accommodations to pregnant employees, (2) when retiree health-care benefits are available under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, and (3) whether the EEOC must attempt to settle a discrimination claim through its conciliation process prior to filing a lawsuit on behalf of a complaint.
We will continue to monitor the Supreme Court’s docket and update you on important decisions as they come down.