December 9, 2014

Supreme Court sides with employers in security screenings pay case

Posted in Fair Labor Standards Act, Hours Worked, Principal activities, Security screenings tagged , , , , , , at 3:02 pm by Tom Jacobson

time clockThe United States Supreme Court today ruled unanimously in favor of employers in a case relating to whether or not employees must be paid for time spent in security screenings. The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk.

Integrity Staffing Solutions required its hourly workers to undergo security screenings before leaving the warehouse each day. The workers were not paid for this time, which took about 25 minutes per day. A group of former employees sued, claiming the practice violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (as amended by the Portal to Portal Act). This law generally requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked.

The high court rejected the employees’ claims. Specifically, the court noted that under the FLSA, employers do not have to pay for activities that occur before or after “the performance of the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform.” Under the court’s precedents, compensable “principal activities” include tasks that are “integral and indispensable” parts of the principal activity.

Thus, the legal question was whether or not the screenings were part of the employees’ principal work activities (which would be compensable) or mere pre- or postliminary activities (which would not be compensable).

In siding with the employer, the court ruled that the screenings were not the principal activities the employees were hired to do. Rather, the court said, the employees were hired “to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package them for shipment,” not to undergo security screenings. The court also ruled that the screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to their retrieving and packaging responsibilities.

The court expressly rejected the employees’ argument that the focus should be on whether the particular activity was required by the employer. Rather, the court said, the focus must be on whether the task was tied to the productive work that the employee was employed to perform.

The decision is a victory for employers in that it re-affirms decades of precedent that hourly employees do not have to be paid for mandatory pre- and postliminary activities that are not the employees’ “principal activities” and are not “integral and indispensable” to those activities. Employers should, however, use caution when applying this standard and should carefully analyze any pre- and post work tasks to determine whether they are or are not compensable.

For more information about this article, please contact me at alexandriamnlaw.com or  taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2014 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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