The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided last week that employees do not have a right to compensation for time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing security screening under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). The decision settled a class-action suit, Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk.
The FLSA establishes minimum wage and overtime compensation for the time that employees work over 40 hours in one work week. Congress constructed the Act so that employers are not required to compensate employees for activities that occur before and after shifts unless those activities are integral and indispensable to the work an employee is employed to perform.
For example, employers are exempted from paying employees for activities such as waiting to don protective gear or waiting in line to punch the clock. However, employers are required to pay employees for activities such as time spent sharpening tools that are needed on the job.
Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk
In 2010, employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., a company that ships for Amazon.com, filed a putative class-action suit claiming that workers were entitled to back pay for time waiting to go through security screenings. Employers generally require this practice to prevent employee theft.
According to the Supreme Court, the FLSA only requires employers to compensate employees for activities that are an intrinsic element of the employee’s primary job duties and one that cannot be skipped. The Court stated that to determine whether or not a pre- or post-shift activity is compensable, employers should focus on whether the activity is tied to the productive work that the employee was hired to perform.
Applying this requirement, the Court found that the employees were not entitled to compensation for the post-shift security screenings because they were hired to retrieve products from warehouse shelves, not to undergo security screenings, and the company could eliminate the screenings altogether without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.
In a concurring opinion, a few justices clarified that employers are still required to compensate employees for activities that relate to worker safety and efficiency.
Donning and Doffing
For IDFA members, this case has implications on whether or not employers need to compensate an employee for pre- and post-shift activities, such as donning and doffing clothing for work. While the Supreme Court’s decision does not directly state that donning and doffing clothing is not compensable under the FLSA, each employer will need to evaluate whether or not such activity is essential for the effective performance of the employee’s productive work. If it is essential, then employers are likely required to compensate employees for that time.
Members with questions may contact Emily Lyons, director of regulatory affairs and counsel for IDFA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.