Unanimously reversing the Ninth Circuit, today the U.S. Supreme Court held that time spent by warehouse workers undergoing security screenings was non-compensable because it did not constitute a “principal activity,” nor was it “integral and indispensable” to the workers’ other principal activities.  Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, No. 13–433 (Dec. 9, 2014).

The Court explained that an activity is “integral and indispensable” to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform 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 found undergoing the security screenings did not meet this test because undergoing a security screening was not an intrinsic element of pulling products from warehouse shelves and packing them for shipment, and the security screenings were not “indispensable” to their work either because the employer could have eliminated the security screenings without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.  The Court rejected the Ninth Circuit’s test which improperly looked only at whether the duty was required and for the benefit of the employee.

The Court rejected the argument that security screenings should be treated differently than safety screenings, citing a 1951 DOL opinion letter addressing both pre-shift safety screenings and post-shift anti-theft screenings, where, the Court held, the Department then “drew no distinction between the searches conducted for the safety of the employees and those con­ducted for the purpose of preventing theft—neither were compensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act.”

Justice Thomas delivered the 9-0 opinion for the Court, with a concurrence from Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.  Monitor this space and www.JacksonLewis.com for further analysis of this decision and its implications for the business community.