The Supreme Court Rules That Employees Are Not Entitled to Overtime Pay While Waiting for After-Work Security Screening

December 9, 2014Alerts Labor & Employment Alert

Today in a unanimous decision the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, and found that employees who are required to go through security screening after they clock-out are not entitled to compensation for the time while waiting to pass through such screenings. See Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, No. 13-433 (Dec. 9, 2014). The case concerned employees who worked at one of Amazon’s warehouses in Nevada, in which products are stored and customer orders are filled. The screening procedures were implemented in order to deter theft of goods.

Two employees of Integrity Staffing filed this class-action lawsuit on behalf of all employees working at both of the Amazon warehouses. They asserted that such employees were required to wait up to twenty-five minutes to be searched, when they would need to remove their wallets, keys and belts to pass through a metal detector. Plaintiffs argued that because this screening procedure was a mandatory part of their job, they were entitled to compensation under the FLSA for the time spent waiting to undergo and actually undergoing the security screening.

The District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that the time spent waiting for and undergoing security screenings was not compensable under the FLSA. The Ninth Circuit, however, found that this after-work screening was a job requirement and was for the company’s benefit. Accordingly, the Circuit concluded that the employer, Integrity Staffing, had to pay the employees for overtime for the time associated with the screening procedures.

The Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court reversed the Circuit court and followed the reasoning of most other Circuit Courts in finding that such screening procedures were not an “integral” and “indispensable” part of the job. The High Court found that the employees were hired to take products off the shelves and package them for shipment to Amazon’s customers, not to go through security screenings. The Court explained that “an activity is not integral and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities unless it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform those activities. The screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packaging them for shipment.”

The Supreme Court has now established that “an activity is integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform – and thus compensable under the FLSA – if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.”

This decision may have broader implications in other industries and with other preliminary and post-liminary work responsibilities, including the so-called “donning and doffing” uniform cases, boot-up time for computers, and certain post-shift activities such as calculation and distribution of tips and preparation of tip-sheets. Interestingly, this was also the rare case where business and the United States Department of Labor were aligned: the Department of Labor argued in favor of the employer in Integrity Staffing.

For more information about this alert, please contact Carolyn D. Richmond at 212.878.7983 or [email protected] , James M. Lemonedes at 212.878.7918 or [email protected] or any other member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Department.