Workers at Amazon warehouses may face up to 25-minute security screenings aimed at preventing theft. The workers sued their employer seeking compensation for the time spent waiting to go through the security screening at the end of each day. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether such time is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law governing compensable work time among other things? The Supreme Court held the time is not compensable.
Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act, which exempts employers from liability for future claims based on two categories of work-related activities, including, “activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities.” Principle activities has been interpreted to mean all activities which are “integral and indispensable” to the workers’ jobs.
The Court ruled that the screenings were not integral and indispensible, as their principle activities included packaging products from the warehouse and preparing them for shipment. Therefore, no additional compensation is required.
Many retail workers experience similar practices and screenings on a daily basis for which they are not compensated. This decision is a setback for these workers who now must prove that the extra time spent ‘working’ is “an intrinsic element of the job” and cannot be skipped. This higher burden makes it much more challenging for employees to receive full compensation for all activities they are engaged in that are truly for their employer’s benefit.