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Polsinelli - Labor and Employment
         

  

December 2014

  

Unanimous Supreme Court: Time Spent Awaiting and Undergoing Security Checks Not Compensable

  

 
 

  

     

  

 
 

For more information about this alert, please contact:

  

James J. Swartz, Jr.

Author

404.253.6046

jswartz@polsinelli.com

  

Amy M. Palesch

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404.253.6064

apalesch@polsinelli.com

  

  

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously held that time spent by hourly warehouse workers waiting for and undergoing mandatory security screenings before leaving the warehouse is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk.

The Court explained that the security screenings at issue (during which the employees remove their wallets, keys, and belts and then pass through metal detectors) were non-compensable activities because a screening is neither a principal activity the employees were employed to perform, nor "integral and indispensable" to the employees' principal activities. Rather, the employees' principal activities are the retrieval of inventory from warehouse shelves and the packaging of those products for shipment. The Court determined that the security screening is not an intrinsic, essential element of the employees' retrieval and packaging duties, and even if the company were to omit security screenings, it would not prevent or impede the employees' ability to perform these principal activities.

The Supreme Court rejected the employees' argument that the time they spend waiting for and undergoing the security screenings (allegedly 25 minutes) is compensable because the employer could and should have reduced that time to a de minimis amount. The Supreme Court held that the fact that the employer might be able to reduce the time spent on security screenings has no bearing on whether security screenings are employees' principal activity or "integral and indispensable" to their principal activities.

Of particular interest to employers, the Court clearly stated that an activity does not become compensable simply because the activity benefits the employer or an employer requires its employees to perform that activity (in this case security checks). Rather, the Court explained that the proper focus is whether the activity is integral and indispensable to the employee's principal activity, and, thus, whether the activity is "tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform." The Court contrasted other examples of activities that it previously has held are compensable because they constitute an "intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities," such as time spent by a battery plant worker showering and donning or doffing protective gear, when (by the employer's own admission) the worker could not safely or effectively perform his principal activities in the plant without showering or changing clothes, and a meatpacking employee sharpening knives because dull knives would hamper production, cause waste, lead to accidents, and adversely affect the product. If these types of activities were eliminated, the employees could not effectively perform their principal activities.

Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk gives employers a bookend 2014 Supreme Court victory (matching Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp., January 2014) in the wage and hour arena. Unlike Sandifer, which focused on the relatively narrow issue of collectively bargained exclusion of time spent donning and doffing clothes, yesterday's decision provides more broadly applicable guidance to employers regarding the circumstances in which pre- and post-work activities may be compensable.

For More Information

If you have questions about your workforce's pre- or post-work activities, or other wage-and-hour issues affecting your employees, please contact the authors or a Polsinelli employment lawyer.

 
 

  

     

  

 

 

  

     

  

 
 

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* Law360, March 2014
** The American Lawyer 2013 and 2014 reports

  

 
 

  

     

  

 
 

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