Late last year the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case regarding when an employer is required to pay an employee when the employee is getting ready to start working. These issues are globally referred to as “Donning and Doffing”.
Donning and doffing issues arise when an employee has to do something to prepare to work and the preparation is integral to the work the employee performs. A classic example is when an employer requires the employee to where safety equipment in order to perform his or her job. The time spent by the employee putting on and taking off the equipment is generally compensable time.
This brings me to a recent Supreme Court case: Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. In this case, the workers worked in a warehouse. Prior to leaving for the day, the employees had to walk through a security check point; the employer required this in order to reduce employee theft.
The employees filed an overtime lawsuit, alleging that the employer should have paid them for time waiting to go through the check point, because the screening process was for the employer’s benefit. The trial court disagreed with the employees and dismissed their claim. The employees appeal and the appellate court sides with the employees.
Undeterred, the employer asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, which it did. It reversed the appellate court’s decision, holding that the screening process was not integral to the worker’s job. The Court stated, “We hold that an activity is integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform-and thus compensable under the FLSA-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.”
Simply put, the Court stated that the job of the warehouse worker’s does not require the screening process. The employer could remove the requirement and the employees would still be able to perform their intended jobs.
This decision should be a reminder that employers should not allow employees to work off the clock. Also, if employees are engaged in activities that are required in order for them to perform their job, they should be paid.