United States: No Pay For Security Checks: Supreme Court

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that employees are not entitled to compensation for time spent waiting for and participating in mandatory security screenings at the end of their shifts. The decision reached by the Supreme Court is a victory for the increasing number of employers nationwide who screen employees to prevent theft. In addition, the Court provided much-needed guidance in an area of wage and hour law that has historically been the subject of litigation: when does the compensable workday begin and end? Integrity Staffing v. Busk.

Facts Of The Case
Integrity Staffing Solutions provides warehouse staffing and space to clients such as Amazon.com. Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, were employed by Integrity Staffing as hourly warehouse employees to fill orders placed by Amazon.com customers.  As part of its measures to prevent employee theft, Integrity Staffing requires its employees to undergo a security screening at the end of their shifts for which they are not compensated.

Busk and Castro allege that the security screening process, including wait time, takes up to 25 minutes per day. As a result, they filed a collective action in a federal district court claiming that they were owed unpaid wages for their time spent waiting for and going through the security screening. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed that Busk and Castro stated a valid claim for relief under the FLSA. Integrity Staffing appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which issued its decision today.

Issues Before The Court
It is fairly common knowledge that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to compensate their employees a minimum hourly wage for their work and one and one-half times their regular wage for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. But while the mandate to compensate for all work performed is clear, how to define when the compensable workday begins and ends is a recurrent issue that federal courts have been grappling with for decades.

The statute itself provides some guidance. Specifically, it establishes that employers do not have to compensate their employees for traveling to the "actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform" or for acts that are "preliminary" or "postliminary" to those principal activities.

The Supreme Court has previously explained that preliminary and postliminary activities which are "integral and indispensable" to a principal activity are, in essence, principal activities and compensable under the FLSA. As result, the key issue when determining whether or not preliminary or postliminary activity is compensable under the FLSA, is whether the activity is one which is "integral and indispensable" to a principal activity. If so, the FLSA provisions apply. Making this determination has historically proven difficult for many federal courts and has led to various, sometimes conflicting, decisions across the country.

Integrity Staffing argued that the security screening is a classic postliminary activity that is neither integral nor indispensable to the work of the warehouse employees. It argued that because the screening process has no relationship with what the employees ordinarily do while on the job, it is not related to a principal activity and is not compensable. Integrity Staffing asserted that the screening is simply a logical part of the exit process and is similar to a requirement that an employee clock out after finishing a day's shift, an activity which is not compensable.

Integrity also relied on several federal court decisions which held that airline employees, for example, are not entitled to compensation for time spent going through airport security before their shifts. It cautioned the Court that a decision holding that the time was compensable could open the floodgates to litigation nationwide regarding similar practices.

Busk and Castro asserted that because the security screening is mandated by, and only benefits Integrity Staffing, it is a part of their work assignment and, thus, a principal activity for which they must be compensated. They argued that the screening was not simply a part of the exit process and instead analogized it to time spent engaging in a drug screen, (an activity which is compensable).

Busk and Castro distinguished previous court decisions which held that time spent going through security screenings is non-compensable by noting that in those cases, the security screenings applied to all individuals who entered the facilities (not just employees) and that they were done for safety reasons, which benefit everyone, not just the employer. They further emphasized that the significant amount of time spent engaged in the security screening distinguished it from clocking out after finishing a shift, and further set the facts at hand apart from previous court decisions.

The Decision Of The Court
The Supreme Court unanimously held that time spent engaged in the security screening is not compensable. It clarified that a preliminary or postliminary activity is only compensable if it is an intrinsic element of the principal activity that an employee is hired to perform and one which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activity.

The Court agreed with Integrity Staffing that, the act of going through a security screening is not sufficiently related to the duties of a warehouse worker to make the time spent doing so compensable. The Court reasoned that Busk and Castro were hired to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package those products for shipment. The security screening process could have been eliminated without impairing the employees' ability to do their work. Therefore, the time spent going through the security screening cannot be considered an intrinsic element of the work and is not compensable.

The Court explicitly rejected the arguments proffered by the employees that the time was compensable because Integrity Staffing required the security screening and because it was for the employer's benefit. The Court explained that a test which turns on those two factors would be overbroad and capture activities that the law was enacted to preclude.  

Implications For Employers
The Supreme Court's decision has appropriately narrowed the definition of compensable preliminary and postliminary activities and avoided a potential flood of wage claims for employers nationwide. Despite this opinion, it is imperative that employers analyze any preliminary and postliminary activities engaged in by their employees to determine whether they compensable based on the Court's rationale.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions