By Clark L. Taylor
Paul H. Tobias Attorney Fellow
The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy
In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the United States Supreme Court held that warehouse workers filling amazon.com orders, do not have to be paid for time spent waiting for and passing through a rigorous security screening prior to exiting the workplace. In Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, the Court decided that the employees’ time was not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”). Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion, which Justice Elena Kagan joined, to expound on her understanding of the standards applied by the Court. The result is not entirely surprising given that the Obama administration filed an amicusbrief supporting Integrity Staffing arguing that the time was not compensable. The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of employers in two recently decided FLSA cases in June 2012 and January 2014. See Sandifer v. U.S. Steel, 134 S.Ct. 870 (2014); Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham, 132 S.Ct. 2156 (2012). The Integrity Staffing decision, which employers are hailing as a “clear victory,” comes at the expense of the workers who had to wait roughly 25 minutes each day to pass through security checkpoints after the end of their shifts.
Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro brought the case as a collective action on behalf of themselves and similarly situated employees. Busk and Castro were employed by Integrity Staffing at amazon.com “fulfillment centers” where items purchased through Amazon’s website were packaged and shipped. In an effort to prevent and deter theft, the warehouse workers were required to undergo a thorough screening in which they were compelled to remove items such as wallets, keys, and belts and pass through metal detectors. The employees alleged that the time spent passing through security could have been drastically reduced through either a staggering of shifts or adding more security screeners. Given that this time was spent to prevent employee theft, Busk and Castro argued that the screenings were conducted solely for the benefit of the employers and their customers.
The district court held that the time was not compensable under the FLSA because it was not integral to the performance of the employees’ principal duties and dismissed the complaint. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding the post-shift activities sufficiently indispensable because they were necessary to the principal work performed and for the benefit of the employer. Since the screenings were conducted at the insistence of the employer to prevent employee theft, the Ninth Circuit held that they were integral and done for Integrity Staffing’s benefit.