United States Supreme Court Rules Employer Required Security Screening is Not Compensable under the FLSA

In Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk et al., the United Supreme Court ruled that the time employees spent waiting to undergo and undergoing security screenings was not compensable under the FLSA. This action was brought by Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, two Integrity Staffing hourly employees who worked as warehouse employees. As warehouse employees, the two retrieved products from Integrity Staffing shelves and packaged the products for delivery to Amazon’s customers. As part of its security procedure, Integrity Staffing required its employees to undergo a security screening before leaving the warehouse at the end of the day. During the security screenings, employees were required to remove items such as wallets, keys, and belts from their persons and pass through metal detectors.

In 2010, Busk and Castro filed a putative class action against the employer alleging they were entitled to compensation under the FLSA for time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing the security screening.  In their complaint, the two employees argued in part that they should have been compensated for the security screening time because the screenings were conducted “to prevent employee theft” and occurred “solely for the benefit of the employers and their customers.”

The United States District Court dismissed the complaint holding that the time spent waiting for and undergoing the security screening was not compensable under the FLSA.  The district court explained that the employees could only state a claim for compensation if the screenings were an “integral and indispensable” part of the principal activities they were employed to perform. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in relevant part holding the post shift activities were compensable as “integral and indispensable” because the security screening was done for the benefit of the employer.

The United States Supreme Court disagreed with the 9th Circuit’s analysis.  In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the employees were not entitled to compensation for the security screenings because the screenings were not “integral and indispensable” activities. The Court held the screenings were not “principal activities or activities which the employee is employed to perform.” The Court further ruled that the screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from the employer’s warehouse shelves or packaging the items for shipment. Additionally, the Court ruled the screenings were not “integral or indispensable” because Integrity Staffing could eliminate the screenings without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.  Lastly, the Supreme Court held the 9th Circuit erred in focusing on whether an employer required a particular activity, instead of focusing on the “integral and indispensable” analysis which focuses on productive work that the employee is employed to perform.

This decision is important to employers as it answers whether time spent undergoing required security screenings is compensable. More importantly, this decision also provides employers a roadmap for what activities are “integral and indispensable” pursuant to the FLSA.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in Labor and Employment matters, including those relating to wage and hour compliance, for almost sixty years and are available to discuss these matters and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts.  The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements.