On December 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, finding that an employee's time spent waiting to undergo and undergoing security screening before leaving work is not an "indispensable" part of the employee's principal activities, and not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Portal-to-Portal Act.
Integrity Staffing Solutions provides warehouse staffing to Amazon.com. Integrity's hourly employees retrieve products from the warehouse shelves and package them for delivery to Amazon's customers. To prevent theft, Integrity has its employees undergo security screening before leaving the warehouse each day. Employees claimed that the time spent waiting for and undergoing those security screenings — roughly 25 minutes each day — is compensable under FLSA.
The Supreme Court reviewed the Portal-to-Portal Act, which exempted employers from liability under FLSA for "activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to [the] principal activity or activities" that an employee is employed to perform. The Court also found that the phrase "principal activity or activities" means all activities that are an "integral and indispensable part of" the employee's principal activities. And an activity is "integral and indispensable" only if it is "an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities." The Court held that the security screenings were not the "principal activity or activities which the employee is employed to perform," because the employees were hired to retrieve and package products. Also, the security screenings were not "integral and indispensable" to the employees' duties as warehouse workers because they could have been eliminated altogether without impairing the employees' ability to do their work. Therefore, time spent in security screenings fell within the Portal-to-Portal Act's exemption, and was not compensable under the FLSA.