In Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, 2014 WL 6885951(U.S. Dec. 9, 2014), the Supreme Court held that time employees spend waiting to undergo and undergoing security screenings is not compensable work time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In Integrity Staffing, the company required its employees who worked at a warehouse fulfilling orders to undergo a security screening at the end of their shifts to help prevent employee theft. During this screening, employees had to remove personal items and pass through metal detectors; a process which was estimated to take about 25 minutes each day per employee. Two Integrity Staffing employees filed a putative class action suit alleging violation of the FLSA and Nevada labor laws. The employees asserted that the security screenings were compensable because they were solely for the benefit of the employer.

The case turned on an interpretation of the Portal-to-Portal Act, which permits employers to not pay for activities that are preliminary or postliminary to the employees’ principal activities. Principal activities include all activities that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.”

The lower court ruled in favor of the employees, but the Supreme Court reversed. The Court held the security screenings were noncompensable postliminary activities.

First, the Court observed that the principal activities of the employees were not to undergo security screenings, but rather to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and prepare the products for shipment. Therefore, the security screenings were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ duties as warehouse workers.

Second, the Court stated the Ninth Circuit erred as it focused on whether an employer “required” a particular activity. This, the Court opined, is too broad of a test, as it would sweep into “principal activities” the very activities the Portal-to-Portal Act meant to exclude.

Third, the Court rejected the argument that time spent waiting to go through security clearance was compensable as Integrity Staffing could have reduced the time to a de minimis amount by adding screeners or staggering shift terminations. The Court held that even though an employer could reduce the time spent by employees performing preliminary or postliminary activities, this does not change the nature of the activity.

This Court’s decision is welcomed news for employers who require, or want to require, their employees to undergo a security screening for anti-theft reasons. The decision also provides useful guidance in resolving questions regarding preliminary and postliminary activities.