Employers have just been given a lot more wiggle room when it comes to what they do and don’t have to pay workers for. 

Employers of hourly workers – especially the likes of Amazon, Apple and CVS Pharmacy – are breathing a huge sigh of relief after the Supreme Court just handed down a landmark ruling that said a group of warehouse workers don’t have to be paid for the time they spend going through security checkpoints after their shifts.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Nevada claim they had to wait up to 25 minutes to clear security before they could go home at the end of their shifts. They sued their employer, Integrity Staffing Solutions, which supplied the workers to Amazon, claiming they should’ve been paid for that time.

Was it ‘integral’?

Amazon offered up two arguments against the workers’ claims:

  1. The wait to pass through security was much shorter than 25 minutes.
  2. The security checks weren’t integral to their jobs, therefore the time spent going through the checks wasn’t compensable.

The lawsuit hinged on the second argument.

Federal law says workers don’t have to be paid for activities that occur before or after a shift if they’re not integral to the work they were hired to do.

The employees said the screenings were performed for Amazon’s benefit – as they make sure nobody was stealing product – and therefore were integral to their jobs. That made the time spent waiting to go through the checkpoints and actually undergoing the checks compensable, they claim.

A federal appellate court agreed with them in ruling the workers’ case should proceed.

But the Supreme Court unanimously kicked the appellate court’s ruling — and the lawsuit itself — to the curb.

Court: ‘Not hired to go through security’

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said the security screenings were not the “principal activity” the workers were employed to perform.

He wrote Integrity Staffing “did not employ its workers to undergo security screenings, but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves … “

That meant the security checks weren’t “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ work, the ruling said.

The lawsuit would’ve cost Amazon a hefty chunk of change, as it likely would end up having to foot the bill for the extra compensation. Nearly 100,000 workers have had to pass through its security checks, and the lawsuit was seeking extra pay for them all.

Apple and CVS Pharmacy are also facing similar suits and no doubt like what they’ve seen from the High Court on this issue.

Cite: Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. V. Busk

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