Do Employees Need To Be Paid For Post-Shift Security Screenings?
No – the U.S. Supreme Court recently held in a 9-0 decision that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employees to paid for post-shift security screenings because they are not “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s principal job activities.
In Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk et al., the issue before the Court was whether the employer was required to pay warehouse employees for the approximately 25 minutes per day that they spent in security screenings following their shifts. No. 13-433 (Dec. 9, 2014). The employees’ primary job duties were to retrieve and package goods for delivery to customers of Amazon.com. The screenings were implemented to prevent and detect employee theft.
The Court analyzed the issue under the Portal-to-Portal Act, which exempts employers from FLSA liability for claims based on “activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to” the performance of the employee’s “principal activities.” 29 U.S.C. § 254. “Principal” activities are those activities that are an “integral and indispensable” part of the employee’s principal job duties. The Court held that an activity is integral and indispensable “if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.”
The Court held that the security screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s primary job duties of retrieving and packaging goods for delivery and, therefore, were postliminary activities that did not require payment under the Portal-to-Portal Act. The Court reasoned that the employer “could have eliminated the screenings altogether without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.”
In reaching this conclusion, the Court specifically rejected the argument adopted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the security screenings were compensable because the employer required them. The Court explained that the integral and indispensable test under the Portal-to-Portal act focuses on the productive work the employee is employed to perform – not merely whether the activity is required. If all required activities were covered, this would lead to the conclusion that activities expressly excluded by the Portal-to-Portal Act would be compensable, such as walking from a factory gate to the workstation.
Takeaway: Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, preliminary and postliminary activities are only compensable under the FLSA if they are “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s principal activities. To meet this standard, the preliminary or postliminary activity must be both “an intrinsic element” of the employee’s principal job duties and “one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.”