The U.S. Supreme Court has Ruled in Favor of Companies Over Workers Pay, Again

U.S. Supreme Court finds employees are on their own time while waiting at workplace security checks.

If you think that by doing something that benefits only your employer and is required to keep your job would mean you would be getting paid for your time, think again. The highest court in the land has ruled that under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employees forced to wait to be cleared at a security checkpoint at the end of their shifts need not be paid for their time.

The case involves workers employed by Integrity Staffing Services at two Nevada warehouses for The suit started after the company required all employees to be screened before they could leave work, in the hopes it would detect and prevent theft. The two workers who originally filed the case claimed they could wait as long as 25 minutes to get through the screenings.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the screening was a mandatory part of their job, imposed by their employer, so they should be paid overtime for the additional time the screenings took. The trial court dismissed the case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the dismissal.  However, in yet another pro-employer decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and agreed with the lower court that the case should be dismissed.

The case turned on interpreting the 1947 Portal to Portal Act which amended the FLSA. The act stated activities employees may perform on the worksite before or after their primary work duties do not qualify workers for extra pay. The court found the screenings were not an integral part of the work and eliminating them wouldn’t impact their normal tasks.

Eric Grover, a partner at the California employment law firm Keller Grover, was quoted in an article on the case in The Recorder discussing the decision’s potential impact on another pending case, Frlekin v. Apple, which involves a similar situation facing employees at Apple’s retail stores. Eric disagrees with the decision because it provides yet another way employers can make employees perform unpaid work. He makes the following points and is quoted as stating,

The court has opened the door for employers to come up with all kinds of mandatory—and unpaid—activities that employees will be forced to undertake if they want to keep their job. For example, employers might require employees to carry out any of an unlimited variety of “gofer”-type tasks that have nothing to do with their jobs.

The decision will extend to other cases where the required activity—while for the employer’s benefit—can be argued to be one that is not itself work of consequence that the employees perform for their employer…And we can expect employers to be creative in inventing ways to pressure employees to perform work for free.

The Apple case includes FLSA and California state law claims…I don’t see this decision as having much, if any, impact on claims based on California wage-and-hour law. California’s standards regarding minimum wage, overtime, breaks, expense reimbursements and countless other workplace concerns differ from the weaker federal standard as well.

It’s not just the giant corporations like Amazon and Apple not paying their workers as they should, it happens in businesses of all sizes in all parts of the economy. If you feel you’re forced to perform work without being paid, contact Keller Grover today.