Best Ohio Wage and Hour Attorney Answer: My employer makes all of its employees go through a security checkpoint before we take a lunch break and doing this takes away ten minutes of our 30 minute lunch break. Shouldn’t we get paid for the lost ten minutes? My employer requires that all employees undergo a time consuming security check prior to leaving company property. It adds an extra half hour to my workday but my employer does not pay me for this extra time. Is my employer allowed to do this?
In breaking news, the United States Supreme Court has just weighed in on a very important wage and hour issue. As we have blogged about in the past, employers must pay all employees, with a few exceptions, at a rate equal to or greater than the federal minimum wage for all time worked. Precisely defining when an employee begins and ends her workday can be difficult, though, as workers are frequently required to perform duties that, while related to their jobs, are conducted off the clock.
Certain tasks related to one’s job are clearly not compensable. For example, while most of us would likely appreciate it if our employers pay us for our commute, very few of us are getting monthly check reimbursing us for bus fare or the time spent on the bus or while in traffic on the I-480. The Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 amended the Fair Labor Standards Act and explicitly stated that time spent on certain activities related to employment, including travelling to or from the place of employment, is not compensable.
Other activities are a closer call, though. What about workers whose jobs require that they wear special protective gear? Should the time it takes a worker in a battery factory to don protective clothing be compensated? What about the time it takes a worker to walk from the area where the protective clothing is donned to her workstation? The answer to both of those questions is yes. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that employees should be compensated for time spent on activities that are “integral and indispensable” to the employee’s job.
The Roberts Court recently issued a ruling that makes clear that “integral and indispensable” is to be construed as narrowly as possible. That is, the simple fact that one’s employer mandates an employee perform a job related task does not necessarily mean that the task is “integral” or “indispensable.” Monday, the Court announced its opinion in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. v. Busk. A unanimous Court held that time spent by warehouse workers waiting in line to go through a security checkpoint before they could leave the building is not time for which the employer must compensate those employees. Keep in mind that the United State Supreme Court rarely comes down with a unanimous decision.
The employees in the case were required to go through a security line every day at the end of their shifts prior to leaving company property. This process sometimes took as long as a half hour. That means that for up to ten hours a month these employees waited in line, because their employer required in order to keep their job, and were not paid for it.
Essentially, the Court reasoned that a determination of whether an activity is “integral and indispensable” to an employee’s jobs turns on whether the employee could still perform his primary duty if the activity in question were removed. Clear as mud, right?
The employees in this case were warehouse workers. Their primary duty was pulling items to complete orders. The Court reasoned that in an imaginary world where these employees were not required to go through security at the end of the day, they would still be able to pull items and complete orders, that is, they could still complete their primary duty. Thus, technically and logically, having to wait in line to file through a required security checkpoint at the end of the day is not an “integral and indispensable” activity for these workers…even though, their employer required it as a condition of employment.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court took into consideration what ruling the other way would cost employers retroactively.
I think that they got this one wrong. To me portal to portal should be when you step onto your company’s property and do things at the direction of your employer, you should be paid. Under the Supreme Court’s rationale, an employer could make each warehouse employee stand in a waiting area for a half hour for no other reason that it pleases them, and this would not be compensable time. What about requiring every employee to stand and watch 15 minutes of advertising before they leave? These tasks are not part of the integral part of the job. It is not about traveling to and from work. It is something that is being done strictly and exclusively and the discretion of the employer. And, in the case of the security screening, only for the employer’s benefit.
Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, Amazon could now cut it security checks from say six lines down to one line and save money by eliminating the position of five security checkers. So what if the employees have to now spend an additional hour in line – it is not compensable time.
If you believe that your employer is not paying you all of your wages for all of your lawfully earned overtime compensation at a rate of one and half times your normal wages as requires under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards laws or you are an nonexempt employee that has been misclassified as exempt or independent contractor, contact the attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. The wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your overtime pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call (216) 291-4744.
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