Should workers get paid for time spent in security screenings?News added by Benefits Pro on March 31, 2014
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By Dan Cook

Ever wish you had a dollar for every minute you spent going through the airport security screenings? If a ruling by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, you may get your wish — if going through security is an unavoidable part of your job and it benefits your employer.

As reported on the Mondaq.com news portal, the matter arose from claims made by employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions. They argued that they should be compensated for the time they spent going through on-site security screenings after they had completed their shifts. They said the screenings, designed to thwart employee theft, were required by the company and benefited the company by reducing employee theft. Therefore, they argued, they should be paid for the time.

Their claims were made under auspices of the Fair Labor Standards Act. At the district level, the court supported Integrity's request for a dismissal on grounds that the screenings were “postliminary” to the employees' work and thus not compensable under existing law. Prior ruling had supported not compensating workers for “preliminary” and “postliminary” activities, according to the Mondaq.com writers.

But on appeal, the Ninth Circuit overruled the dismissal and found for the plaintiffs. The court held that time spent in security screenings is potentially compensable because it is “integral and indispensable” to an employee's principal job duties, Mondaq reported.

As the Mondaq article noted, there is an exception to the preliminary and postliminary rule. That's in a case “where these activities are 'integral and indispensable' to an employee's principal activities, meaning they are (1) 'necessary to the principal work performed" and (2) "done for the benefit of the employer.”

Essentially, what the Ninth Circuit said was the the district court should have applied the “integral and indispensable” test to the Integrity case. Because that rule was not applied, the Ninth considered the appeal and ruled for the plaintiffs because “(1) Integrity requires security screenings, (2) the screenings must be conducted at work, and (3) the screenings are intended to prevent employee theft (which is for Integrity's benefit).”

On March 3, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the employer's appeal of the verdict, since two Circuit panels (the Second and the Eleventh) had ruled in opposition to the Ninth on the issue.

“If the Supreme Court reverses the Ninth Circuit, it may affirm that security clearance time is non-compensable as a matter of federal law. Employers should be on the lookout for the Supreme Court's decision next term,” the authors concluded.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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