Supreme Court Denies Workers Pay for Time Spent in Security Lines
Do your employees spend time in security lines before or after leaving the office? Travel to airports? Spend time at courthouses? If they do, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling may have an impact on how you compensate employees.
On Dec. 9, 2014, the Supreme Court held unanimously that an employee's time spent in security screening before leaving the workplace is not an integral and indispensable part of the employee's principal activities. Therefore, this time is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act.
In the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, two employees brought a class action lawsuit demanding unpaid wages against Integrity Staffing Solutions, a company that provides warehouse staffing to Amazon.com. The employees alleged that they should have been paid for the time spent waiting for and undergoing security screenings—approximately 25 minutes per day—under the FLSA.
The employees also argued that screening time could have been reduced to an insignificant amount if Integrity Staffing had added more security screeners or had staggered the end time of employee shifts.
The case was initially dismissed by a Nevada district court for failure to state a claim, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed that decision. The 9th Circuit found that security screenings were for the company’s benefit and were integral and indispensable to employees’ principal employment activities. Therefore, the screenings were compensable under the FLSA.
Impact on Employers
The Supreme Court’s decision is welcome news for many employers and is significant in a number of ways. More than likely, this ruling will prevent a wave of litigations brought by employees regarding security checkpoints. According to a brief filed in the case, there have been 13 class-action lawsuits against companies involving more than 400,000 plaintiffs claiming millions of dollars in damages.
Moreover, observers of the Supreme Court have noted that implicit in the Court’s opinion is a notion that the time spent by employees in security checks entering facilities such as airports, courts, government buildings and other private offices may also not be compensable.
Employers should review their employee’s activities to assess whether they fall under the Portal-to-Portal exemption highlighted by the Supreme Court’s decision.
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