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December 30, 2014

No Pay For Time Spent Undergoing Security Screenings

In Integrity Staffing Solutions vs. Busk, 574 U.S. _____ (2014), the United States Supreme Court considered the question of whether the time employees spent undergoing security screenings at the end of each day constituted work time that the employer was required to compensate. On December 9, 2014, the Court issued a unanimous decision holding that such time is not compensable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").

The Busk case arose from a lawsuit brought by former hourly warehouse workers who retrieved products from warehouse shelves and packaged them for delivery to customers. The workers were required by their employer to undergo an anti-theft security screening before leaving the warehouse each day. During the screening, employees removed items such as wallets, keys and belts from their persons and passed through metal detectors. The process took approximately 25 minutes each day according to the employees, who claimed in their lawsuit that they were entitled to compensation for that time.

Rejecting the employees' claim, the Court held that the time the employees spent waiting for and actually undergoing the security screenings constituted a "noncompensable postliminary activity" and, thus, was not required to be compensated. The Court rejected the notion that whether an activity is compensable turns solely on whether the employer requires it. Instead, the Court held that an activity is compensable if it is "integral and indispensable as part of the principal activities" – that is, when the activity is one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities. In the case before it, the Court found that the security screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packing them for shipment. The Court further added that the screenings could have been eliminated without compromising the employees' ability to do their jobs. Accordingly, the Court held that the time the employees spent waiting for and undergoing the screenings was not required to be compensated.

By appropriately defining the test for activities that are compensable, the Court has confirmed that employees cannot successfully claim that activities are compensable merely because they are required by the employer. However, employers with unionized workforces may see demands to nonetheless compensate employees for such time. As observed by the Court in its decision, the issue of compensation for such activities is one that could be "properly presented to the employer at the bargaining table."

If you have any questions about the content presented in this alert, please contact the Hiscock & Barclay lawyer with whom you normally work or any attorney in our Labor & Employment Practice Area.


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