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Friday, December 12, 2014

Supreme Court: Wait-Time for Security Screening not Compensable under the FLSA

The Supreme Court held in a 9-0 decision this week that employees who were required to pass through anti-theft security screenings at the end of each work day were not owed for the time spent waiting in line, emptying their pockets, and passing through metal detectors, because that time was not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, et al., No. 13-433 (Dec. 9, 2014).

The case, brought by employees in a Nevada Amazon.com warehouse, required the Court to interpret the FLSA and the Portal-to-Portal Act, which essentially provide that a work activity is compensable if it is “an integral or indispensable part” of the employee’s principal work activities. The Supreme Court held that an activity is integral and indispensable, and therefore requires compensation under the FLSA, if: (a) it is an intrinsic element of the activities which the employee is employed to perform; and (b) the employee cannot dispense with the activity and still be able to perform his principal activities. Stated simply, the activity must be a direct and essential part of the performance of the employee’s core responsibilities. The Court then held that passing through security was not part of the duties the warehouse workers were hired to perform and would not have affected the performance of their packing and shipping duties if it had been eliminated. Therefore, the Court ruled that the employer properly regarded the waiting in line and screening time as off the clock.

While this case controls with respect to time spent for certain employer security measures, it may have broader application to those employers that require, or are considering requiring, employees to perform non-essential activities off the clock. It provides a test to determine whether those activities are compensable under the FLSA, which employers can apply to attempt to avoid violations.

As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation and should not be relied on as such. Please contact one of our labor and employment lawyers if you have any questions.

This update was prepared by Charles S. Elbert, D. Leo Human, and Erin M. Leach.

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