FLSA Standards Clarified in Recent Supreme Court Case

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk that employees at a Nevada warehouse do not need to be compensated for the time they spend going through security screenings at the ends of their shifts.  This decision reversed an earlier Ninth Circuit ruling in favor of the workers.

In this case, the plaintiffs were hourly employees who worked for Integrity filling customer orders for retail goods at warehouses owned by Amazon.com.  Integrity Staffing is a staffing agency that supplies warehouse workers on a contract basis to various clients.  At the end of their shifts, the employees were required to pass through a security screening station as an anti-theft precaution.  The screening process itself was relatively simple – employees would empty their pockets and walk through a metal detector.  However, employees allege that because so many of the workers’ shifts ended simultaneously and because the security stations were understaffed, the wait to clear security could take up to 25 minutes.  The employees claimed that the time they spent waiting for and going through the security screening was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and filed a class action on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated.

The FLSA requires that employers compensate their employees for the time spent performing ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????the work they were hired to do.  However, the law does not require employers to pay employees for any activities that are “preliminary” or “postliminary” to the workday (i.e., the time an employee spends commuting to and from work), unless those preliminary and postliminary activities are “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ other principal activities.

In Integrity Staffing, the Supreme Court held that the end-of-shift security screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ other principal activities, and thus the time employees spent going through the screenings was not compensable under the FLSA.  The Court acknowledged that the screenings were related to the work that the employees performed in the warehouse, but noted that the employer could have eliminated the screenings altogether without the safety or effectiveness of the employees’ principal activities being substantially impaired.

If you or your business needs legal guidance to navigate the complexities of the FLSA, please consult an experienced attorney at Montgomery Purdue Blankinship & Austin, PLLC.

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