No Overtime for After Work Security Screenings

In another rare unanimous opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court brought into line the one federal appellate court that deviated from the rest of the country by holding that workers who are required to stay after work to undergo a security screening are not entitled to overtime pay while completing that process.

In Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v Busk (Dkt. 13-433, Dec. 8, 2014), Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., required its hourly warehouse workers, who retrieved products from warehouse shelves and packaged them for delivery to Amazon.com customers, to undergo a security screening before leaving the warehouse each day.  Respondents, former employees, sued the company alleging, as relevant here, that they were entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) for the roughly 25 minutes each day that they spent waiting to undergo and undergoing those screenings. They also alleged that the company could have reduced that time to a minimal amount by adding screeners or staggering shift terminations and that the screenings were conducted to prevent employee theft and, thus, for the sole benefit of the employers and their customers.

The District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that the screenings were not integral and indispensable to the employees’ principal activities but were instead postliminary (after ending principal work activities) and noncompensable. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in relevant part, asserting that postshift activities that would ordinarily be classified as noncompensable postliminary activities are compensable as integral and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities if the postshift activities are necessary to the principal work and performed for the employer’s benefit.

Reversing the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court held that such screening procedures were not an “integral” part of the job.  The reasoning, according to the Court’s opinion, was to the effect that the staff at the warehouses were hired to take products off the shelves and package them for shipment to Amazon’s customers, not to undergo security screenings.  According to the Court, the screenings could have been eliminated without affecting the role the workers were hired to fulfill, thereby demonstrating that the screenings were not an “integral” part of their jobs.

The Supreme Court’s opinion highlighted that the Ninth Circuit erred in focusing on whether the employer had required the extra activity at the end of the workday.  According to the Supreme Court, that type of “end of the workday” analysis would and does run counter to the goal of the “Portal-to-Portal Act”, passed in 1947, designed to narrow the scope of wage and hour rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Every other U.S. Court of Appeals had rejected such analysis.

PK Law Labor and Employment Attorneys can answer questions about overtime pay and wage and hour laws.  Bear in mind that there are both federal and state rules regarding such laws so the guidance of counsel in evaluating the need for overtime pay and compliance with wage and hour statutes is always advisable.

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