Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015.
Lauren W. Kavanagh, Esq.
Trimboli & Prusinowski, LLC
It is not uncommon for an employer to require that its employees proceed through a security check on a daily basis prior to beginning work and prior to leaving the building. The United States Supreme Court has recently ruled that the time devoted to the security check is not compensable pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As a result, employees of a staffing agency that provides warehouse employees for companies including Amazon.com, who filed a class action lawsuit under the FLSA, did not have to be compensated for the time they devoted to going through the daily security screening.
In Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, 514 U.S. _____ (Dec. 9, 2014) the Court held in favor of the employers, interpreting the Portal to Portal Act, which is part of the FLSA, to require payment only for activities that are “integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform…” Id. at 6. The Portal to Portal Act provides, for example, that when an employee leaves one office location to travel to another to perform his/her work, the time travelling from one office to the other must be compensated. In this case, the Court determined that because the security screening was not integral and indispensable to performing the employees’ principal work activities of retrieving and packaging products from warehouse shelves, they were not entitled to be compensated for the time it took to undergo the screenings at the end of their shifts.
The Court distinguished the employer’s requirement to undergo the security screenings from a worker in a chemical plant who is required to change into certain clothes in order to perform his job. Id. at 6-7. In the latter incidence, the employee cannot work without the protective or specified clothing, typically maintained by the employer. In the former instance, the security check is not required to perform the actual work; however, it is necessary pursuant to the employee’s policies. In other words, the Court held that the test does not hinge on whether the task is required by the employer, but rather whether the task is integral and indispensable to the performance of the principal work activity.
The Integrity Staffing Solutions case highlights how fact-sensitive FLSA inquiries can be. Determining which employees are exempt and non-exempt from the FLSA is important for all employers and determining which job duties non-exempt employees must be compensated for are fact specific to individuals and should be evaluated routinely to ensure correct compensation is being given to employees. Employers should always consult with an employment attorney in these and any other types of FLSA related issues.