During its October 2014 term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could have far-reaching implications on what types of pre- and post-shift activities are compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Supreme Court recently granted review of a case that would determine whether private companies must pay their non-exempt employees for time spent waiting in security checks at the end of a shift.
The case, Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, revolves around workers at Amazon.com’s warehouse and distribution centers who were required to pass through bag checks at the end of their shifts to check for stolen merchandise. Time spent waiting in line for and undergoing such bag checks—which some workers claim took as many as 25 minutes each day—was not treated as paid time.
The workers argue that the time spent in the security check is required, primarily for the benefit of the employer, and a necessary activity for the performance of their jobs fulfilling online purchase orders. Accordingly, the workers argue that this time should be treated as compensable hours worked under the FLSA pursuant to the Portal-to-Portal Act. The employer, on the other hand, argues that the time spent in security screenings, although required, is fundamentally distinct from the employees’ actual job duties and should be treated like time spent waiting at the time clock, walking between the parking lot and the workplace, waiting to pick up a paycheck, and putting on protective gear—all tasks that have been found to be non-compensable under the FLSA. After the Ninth Circuit found such time to be compensable—despite the Second and Eleventh Circuits previously holding otherwise, the employer appealed to the High Court.
The Integrity Staffing Solutions case is just one of a handful of cases challenging this sort of pre- and post-shift security clearance process. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the workers, retail employers and those with distribution and fulfillment operations that employ such security measures in an attempt to minimize employee theft can expect to see a spate of class action litigation by employees seeking back pay for time spent in security screenings. We will keep you apprised of developments in this case.