The Supreme Court will soon decide whether employers will be required to pay their employees for time spent going through a security clearance at the end of each shift. The case is Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., 713 F.3d 525 (9th Cir. 2013). The Court heard oral arguments on October 8, 2014.
Integrity Staffing Solutions, a Nevada corporation, provides warehouse space and staffing to clients like Amazon.com. The plaintiffs, Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, are former hourly employees of Integrity Staffing in two Nevada warehouses. Integrity Staffing required its employees to pass through a security clearance at the end of each shift. During these security checks, the employees were searched, required to remove their wallets, keys and belts, and passed through metal detectors. The security clearances were utilized to minimize theft of products in the warehouse—a daily loss prevention measure. However, the employees were not paid for the time it took for them to go through this security clearance, which required employees to wait up to 25 minutes.
Additionally, on their 30-minute lunch periods, the employees spent 10 minutes of the meal period walking to and from the cafeteria and/or undergoing security clearances. The employees were not paid for the 10 minutes that it took to go through security during their meal periods and received less than 30 minutes for lunch, receiving warnings from managers to eat quickly so they could clock back in.
The plaintiffs filed suit against Integrity Staffing, alleging that the employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to compensate employees for postliminary activities if they are an integral and indispensable part of the employee’s principal activities. The plaintiffs alleged the security clearances that they were required to go through, both during their lunch breaks and at the end of their shifts, were necessary to their work as warehouse employees and done for Integrity Staffing’s benefit. The lower Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims for unpaid wages, but the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims and found that they stated a plausible claim for a FLSA violation as to security clearances. The Court upheld the dismissal of the FLSA claims related to the shortened meal periods.
The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court who must now determine whether time spent going through required security clearances at work is compensable. Depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling, employers may have to consider whether the cost of security is worth the additional compensation that must be paid to its hourly employees who are subjected to such security measures.