The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk held that Amazon warehouse workers were not entitled to pay for the time they spent being screened for theft at the end of their work shifts. Justice Clarence Thomas, ruling for a unanimous Supreme Court, explained that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that workers be paid for activities before and after their shifts only when the activities are “integral and indispensable” to the job they are hired to perform.
Thomas wrote that whether activities are integral and indispensable “is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform.” The Court relied on Department of Labor regulations that employees need not be paid for “checking in and out and waiting on line to do so.”
The Supreme Court’s decision examined the Portal-to-Portal Act, which Congress passed in 1947 to exempt companies from having to pay overtime for certain activities that take place before and after a worker’s shift. In prior cases, the Supreme Court found that the time battery plant workers spent showering and changing was compensable because of the presence of toxic chemicals in the plant. Similarly, the Supreme Court held that employees in a meatpacking plant should be paid for sharpening knives because dull knives would make them less effective and damage the appearance of the product. The Integrity Staffing case has important implications for many retail employers. There are more than twenty class action lawsuits pending across the United States filed against Amazon and other companies that use security checks at the end of shifts to make sure that their merchandise is not stolen. A win by the Amazon workers would have opened the door for hundreds of millions of dollars in back pay and damages.
Louis Pechman was quoted in the Wall Street Journal about the decision.