Recently, on October 8, 2014 the US Supreme Court heard argument in the case Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. vs. Busk. The issue at hand in this case was whether the Employer, Integrity Staffing Solutions that had placed many workers at an Amazon fulfillment warehouse in Nevada, had to pay their employees for time the employees spent waiting to go through security checks when they leave the facility each day. Employees who worked at Amazon claimed that this added up to sometimes 25 minutes each day that they were required to be at work and yet they had already clocked out and were not getting paid for this time. Integrity is a staffing company who had placed these employees at the Amazon fulfillment warehouse and thus Amazon is not a party to this suit.
Of course, this issue involves a well-known FLSA issue for most HR Professionals which is what time is compensable under the FLSA. The general rule is that time is compensable including activities such as this one that are either preliminary or postliminary to the regular workday if they are integral and indispensable to the employees job duties. Thus, in this case the question is whether waiting to go through the employer’s security checkpoints is an integral and indispensable part of these warehouse workers job duties. The administration has allegedly argued that it is not an integral and indispensable part of their job duties. Rather, it is merely a task the employees may need to do as part of their job, but not one that’s at the core of their employment with the company. The 9th Circuit however agreed with the employees and held that the time they spent waiting to go through security checkpoints was compensable time under the FLSA because it benefited the employer by preventing theft.
As alleged in documents filed in this case, employees who leave Amazon fulfillment warehouses at the end of their shift are required to go through security checkpoints in which they must remove their personal items from their pockets such as keys, belts and wallets and then pass through a metal detector similar to the ones located in airports. Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, who previously worked at this Amazon fulfillment warehouse as Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc.’s employees, alleged that they were required to wait up to 25 minutes to get through this security checkpoint each day. However, in response to questioning by MSNBC, an Amazon spokesperson reported that employees usually travel through these security checkpoints with little or no wait time. The impact of this decision could be monumental. Many large retailers such as Apple and CVS have similar requirements of their employees. Class action lawsuits involving these retailers over the same issues have been put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision in this case. However, if Amazon and other retailers had to pay employees for this time spent waiting to go through security checkpoints, the amount of money they could potentially have to pay for this to all employees could be millions. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to hear what the Supreme Court decides in this precedent-setting case that could potentially reshape how retailers do business throughout the country.