SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE IF EMPLOYEES CAN BE COMPENSATED FOR SECURITY CHECKS AFTER CLOCKING OUT
On October 8, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments regarding whether time spent by Amazon employees going through security checkpoints after clocking out is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Amazon uses Integrity, a temp agency, to supply employees at Amazon’s warehouses across the country. In 2010, former warehouse employees filed suit against Integrity for back pay of time spent conducting security checks after each shift. Employees allege that each security check takes about 30 minutes, including time waiting in line.
To determine whether this time is compensable, the Supreme Court will have to determine whether the security checks are integral and indispensable to the principal activities the employer has engaged employees to perform. The issue stems from the very beginning of FLSA, when Congress distinguished integral activity from activity merely related to work. However, the distinction is not always apparent. So far, it has been determined that related, non-compensable activities include driving to and from work, waiting in line to clock in and out, and waiting in line to collect a paycheck. Examples of activities that are not direct work, but have been held to be integral to the work include putting on and taking off protective gear without which an employee would not be able to work, butchers sharpening knives before work, and battery plant employees spending time showering after work to wash off chemicals. These activities all directly impact the employee’s ability to perform the work they have been engaged to do.
Following the 9th Circuit’s decision to allow this case to go forward, a number of other similar back pay claims have been brought across the country. Therefore, it is already apparent that this decision will have a significant impact on how and whether employers continue to conduct security checks.
In the retail industry, employee theft imposes costs estimated at almost $16 billion each year. As a result an increasingly large number of employers perform post-shift security checks. If the Supreme Court determines that this is part of employees’ compensable time, employers across the country will have to make the choice between foregoing security screenings or compensating employees for the time spent undergoing the screenings.