The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that employees are not entitled to overtime pay for the time spent waiting for and undergoing post-shift security screening procedures. The plaintiffs are warehouse workers at various sorting facilities connected to online retailer Amazon.com [corporate website] who were required to pass through security screening procedures after work without pay. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the time spent by employees for after-hours screenings to guard against warehouse theft qualifies for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [DOL backgrounder] as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act [DOL backgrounder, PDF]. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court reversed:
We hold that an activity is integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform—and thus compensable under the FLSA—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. Because the employees’ time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing Integrity Staffing’s security screenings does not meet these criteria, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Elena Kagan.
The court heard arguments [JURIST report] in the case in October. At oral arguments, counsel for the employer argued the screenings were part of egress, akin to punching one’s time card or the changing of clothes, and the employees should not be compensated. In opposition, the attorney for the workers asked the court to consider a two-part test to determine whether 1) the screenings are work; and further 2) whether the screenings are conducted for the employer’s benefit. The argument follows if the answer to these two questions is “yes,” then the screenings must be defined as work and the employees should be compensated. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the case in March.