The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous opinion on December 9, 2014, in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. v. Busk et al., ruling that employees' time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing post-shift security screenings is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., which provides warehouse staffing to Amazon.com throughout the United States, required its employees to undergo a security screening before leaving the warehouse each day. Two former employees, Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, sued the company and alleged that they were entitled to compensation for time spent waiting for and undergoing the security screenings.
The district court dismissed the complaint, finding that the time was not compensable under the FLSA. The court explained that because the screenings occurred after the regular work shift, the employees could state a claim for compensation only if the screenings were an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities they were hired to perform. The court concluded that the screenings were not an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities the former employees were hired to perform and ruled in favor of Integrity.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling in relevant part, holding that the screenings were necessary to the principal work performed and were conducted for the benefit of the employer and, as such, constituted compensable post-shift activities. Integrity appealed the Ninth Circuit's holding, contending that the decision was inconsistent with the Portal-to-Portal Act, which exempts employers from liability for activities that are "preliminary to or postliminary to" an employee's principal activity.
Upon review, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appellate court and held that the security screenings at issue were non-compensable postliminary activities. The Supreme Court explained that "principal activity or activities" comprise "all activities which are an 'integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.'" The Supreme Court found that the screenings were not the principal activity that the former employees were hired to perform. Integrity employed its workers to retrieve products from warehouses and package those products for shipment, not to undergo security screenings. Further, the Supreme Court held that the screenings were not "integral and indispensable" to the employees' duties as warehouse workers and that Integrity could have done away with the screenings altogether without impairing the employees' ability to do their work. Justice Thomas wrote that the Court of Appeals was incorrect in placing focus on whether an employer required a particular activity and explained that "the integral and indispensable test is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform."
What This Means for Employers
Most immediately, the unanimous Supreme Court decision provides employers with an answer on whether time spent by employees undergoing security screenings is compensable. More broadly however, the ruling delivers guidance as to what activities are considered "integral and indispensable" to an employee's principal activities. In light of this new clarification and guidance, employers may want to consider conducting an FLSA policy review to evaluate which activities performed by their employees will be deemed integral and indispensable, thus requiring or not requiring compensation under the FLSA.