On December 9, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States decided warehouse workers are not entitled to compensation for the time they spend waiting to undergo and undergoing security screenings required by their employer.
Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. provides warehouse workers to Amazon.com. These employees retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package them for delivery to Amazon customers. Integrity Staffing Solutions also required these employees to undergo security screenings. These employees were not paid for their time spent in the security screenings that took place before they left the warehouse at the end of each day, resulting in roughly 25 minutes of unpaid time per day.
In Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk et al., the employees brought suit against their employer alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), claiming they were entitled to compensation for their time spent in the security screenings. The Supreme Court disagreed with the employees and held that the time spent by the employees waiting to undergo and undergoing these security screenings is not compensable under the FLSA. The Court based its ruling on the Portal-to-Portal Act.
The Portal-to-Portal Act exempts employers from liability under the FLSA for failing to pay employers for two kinds of activities: (1) walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform, and (2) activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities.
The Supreme Court concluded that the security screenings in question are activities postliminary to the principal activities of retrieving and packaging products. The Court reasoned that whether or not the activity is compensable depends on if it is indispensible or integral to the principal activities that the employee is employed to perform. Because the security screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products and preparing them for shipment and because the employer could have eliminated the screenings altogether without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work, the time was deemed noncompensable.
In the unanimous opinion, the Court notes its other decisions where activities were held to be compensable. In one instance the Court held the time battery-plant employees spent showering and changing clothes was compensable because the chemicals in the plant were toxic and the employer conceded that the time spent was indispensable to the performance of their work and integrally related to that work. In another instance, the Court held the time meatpacker employees spent sharpening their knives was compensable because dull knives would slow production, affect the appearance of the meat, cause waste and lead to accidents.