US Supreme Court Building

Court Gives Employers Big Win: No Obligation to Pay Employees for Post-shift Security Inspections

In a unanimous decision today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that employers do not need to pay employees for the time spent in post-shift security inspections.  In this case, an employer operated a warehouse and shipping facility for Amazon.com, and given the employee access to the large inventory in the warehouse, the employer required its employees to undergo an inspection after the conclusion of their shift and before they could leave the job site.

The employees argued that the time spent going through these security checks – as much as 25 minutes each time – was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that working time be compensated at a minimum wage.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the employees were entitled to paid for this time, since they were required by the employer to be there.  A unanimous United States Supreme Court, however, reversed that decision, making clear that this kind of time is not compensable.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, all hours worked must be compensated, but certain preliminary and postliminary activities are not compensable.  For example, the time spent putting on protective gear or uniforms is not compensable.  The test for determining whether or not the time is compensable includes a requirement that the activity performed during that time be the type of duties the employee was hired to perform or that the activity be integral to those duties the employee was hired to perform.

Here, the Court wrote:

“To begin with, the screenings were not the principal activities the employees were employed to perform—i.e., the workers were employed not to undergo security screenings but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package them for shipment. Nor were they ‘integral and indispensable’ to those activities.”

There have been a series of cases all holding the same thing, so this result was expected.  The good news is that the unanimous decision shows the court considers this concept to be well settled.  Employers always should consult with counsel to make sure they are considering the correct hours to be compensable and non-compensable, but this provides more good news for employers as a confirmation that these kinds of postliminary activities need not be considered compensable.