Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk represents a significant victory for employers that use security screening measures to protect against theft. On December 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that time spent by warehouse workers undergoing security screenings was non-compensable. Integrity Staffing Solutions is a staffing company that provides non-exempt warehouse laborers to Amazon.com. At the end of their shifts, the workers were required to pass through metal detectors to ensure they had not stolen any products. The employees filed a class action suit, seeking compensation for the time spent waiting for and undergoing the screenings. The employees argued the screenings took approximately 25 minutes and they occurred solely for the benefit of the employer because they were conducted to prevent theft. The employees prevailed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that decision was overturned by the Supreme Court.
In doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Portal-to-Portal Act, and unanimously held that wages were not owed because the security screening was “postliminary” to the performance of their principal work duties. The Court reasoned that the act of going through the security screening did not constitute a “principal activity” and it was not “integral and indispensable” to their other principal activities. The Court explained that an activity is “integral and indispensable” to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform only 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 found the security screenings did not meet this test because it was not an intrinsic element of pulling products from warehouse shelves and packing them for shipment, and the security screenings were not “indispensable” to their work either because the employer could have eliminated the security screenings without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.
The Court upheld longstanding law that security screenings are treated the same as safety screenings, citing a 1951 Department of Labor opinion letter addressing both pre-shift safety screenings and post-shift anti-theft screenings, where, the Department of Labor “drew no distinction between the searches conducted for the safety of the employees and those conducted for the purpose of preventing theft—neither were compensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has now provided all parties with more clarity regarding the compensability of “wait time” and time undergoing security checks.
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