Tuesday, December 9, 2014

High Court Says No Pay for Security Screening Time

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that companies do not have to pay workers for the time they spend undergoing security checks at the end of their shifts.  The case involved an Amazon.com contractor, although Amazon was not a party to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in the case work at a facility in Nevada where Amazon processes and ships merchandise.  They claim that they spend up to 30 minutes each day standing in lines and going through security screening aimed at reducing theft from the facility.  In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case, the Retail Litigation Center noted that the retail industry loses about $16 billion annually due to theft.

Writing for the full Court, Justice Clarence Thomas observed that the screening process is not a principal activity of the workers’ jobs and, therefore, is not subject to compensation.  For workers to be paid for a particular activity, it must be an intrinsic element of their principal activities and one with which the workers cannot dispense if they are to perform their principal activities.  In the parlance of the Fair Labor Standards Act, it must be an “integral and indispensable” part of the principal activities.

The security screenings at issue in the Amazon case were deemed to be non-compensable activities that were postliminary to the employees’ actual work.  The screenings were not the principal activities the employees were employed to perform (i.e., the workers were employed to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package them for shipment, not to undergo security screenings).  Nor were the screenings integral and indispensable to those job activities.

The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Busk.

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