On March 3, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case which questions whether employees of companies such as Amazon.com, and companies that provide staffing services to Amazon.com, must be paid for time spent going through security screenings similar to those found in airports, sporting venues, courthouses and correctional facilities prior to or at the end of their shifts.

Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro were employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., a company which provides warehouse space and staffing to clients such as Amazon.com.  Busk and Castro worked at Nevada warehouses filling orders placed by Amazon customers.  In 2010, Busk and Castro sued Integrity seeking back pay, overtime, and double damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act for time spent in security screenings after the end of their work shifts.  Busk and Castro alleged that they waited up to 25 minutes to be searched, remove their wallets, keys, and belts; and pass through metal detectors prior to leaving work.  The clearances were required to minimize employee theft. 

The United States District Court in Nevada dismissed the claims, finding that security screenings are "preliminary" or "postliminary" activities that are not compensable under the FLSA pursuant to the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947.  Busk and Castro appealed the dismissals to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the District Court's decision, holding that time spent in security screenings is compensable under the FLSA because it is "necessary to [the employees'] primary work as warehouse employees." The Ninth Circuit's holding conflicted with decisions from two other federal appeals courts which held that time spent in security screenings is not subject to the FLSA because it is not "integral and indispensable" to employees' principal job duties.  Integrity filed a petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has now agreed to hear the case.  The question for the Supreme Court is whether time spent in security screenings is compensable under the FLSA.

While this case deals with a private sector employment situation, the Supreme Court's eventual ruling may also have a far-reaching impact on public agencies which require employees, in this post-9/11 era, to go through time consuming security screenings while arriving at work and/or while leaving work.  We will monitor this case and update you as it proceeds.

Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk (2014) __S.Ct.__ [2014 WL 801096].