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(Slip Opinion)
OCTOBER TERM, 2014
1
Syllabus
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Syllabus
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK
ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 13–433.
Argued October 8, 2014—Decided December 9, 2014
Petitioner Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., required its hourly warehouse workers, who retrieved products from warehouse shelves and
packaged them for delivery to Amazon.com customers, to undergo a
security screening before leaving the warehouse each day. Respondents, former employees, sued the company alleging, as relevant here,
that they were entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) for the roughly 25 minutes each day that
they spent waiting to undergo and undergoing those screenings.
They also alleged that the company could have reduced that time to a
de minimis amount by adding screeners or staggering shift terminations and that the screenings were conducted to prevent employee
theft and, thus, for the sole benefit of the employers and their customers.
The District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a
claim, holding that the screenings were not integral and indispensable to the employees’ principal activities but were instead postliminary and noncompensable. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit reversed in relevant part, asserting that postshift activities
that would ordinarily be classified as noncompensable postliminary
activities are compensable as integral and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities if the postshift activities are necessary to
the principal work and performed for the employer’s benefit.
Held: The time that respondents spent waiting to undergo and undergoing security screenings is not compensable under the FLSA. Pp. 3–9.
(a) Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act to respond to an economic emergency created by the broad judicial interpretation given to
the FLSA’s undefined terms “work” and “workweek.” See 29 U. S. C.
2
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK
Syllabus
§251(a); Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321
U. S. 590, 598. The Portal-to-Portal Act exempted employers from
FLSA liability for claims based on “activities which are preliminary
to or postliminary to” the performance of the principal activities that
an employee is employed to perform. §254(a)(2). Under this Court’s
precedents, the term “principal activities” includes all activities
which are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.” Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U. S. 247, 252–253. An activity is “integral and indispensable” if it is an intrinsic element of the employee’s principal activities and one with which the employee cannot
dispense if he is to perform his principal activities. This Court has
identified several activities that satisfy this test—see, e.g., id., at 249,
251; Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U. S. 260, 262—and Department of Labor regulations are consistent with this approach, see 29
CFR §§790.8(c), 790.7(g). Pp. 3–7.
(b) The security screenings at issue are noncompensable postliminary activities. To begin with, the screenings were not the principal
activities the employees were employed to perform—i.e., the workers
were employed not to undergo security screenings but to retrieve
products from warehouse shelves and package them for shipment.
Nor were they “integral and indispensable” to those activities. This
view is consistent with a 1951 Department of Labor opinion letter,
which found noncompensable under the Portal-to-Portal Act both a
preshift screening conducted for employee safety and a postshift
search conducted to prevent employee theft. The Ninth Circuit’s test,
which focused on whether the particular activity was required by the
employer rather than whether it was tied to the productive work that
the employee was employed to perform, would sweep into “principal
activities” the very activities that the Portal-to-Portal Act was designed to exclude from compensation. See, e.g., IBP, supra, at 41.
Finally, respondents’ claim that the screenings are compensable because Integrity Staffing could have reduced the time to a de minimis
amount is properly presented at the bargaining table, not to a court
in an FLSA claim. Pp. 7–9.
713 F. 3d 525, reversed.
THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
a concurring opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined.
TOMAYOR, J., filed
SO-
Cite as: 574 U. S. ____ (2014)
1
Opinion of the Court
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
_________________
No. 13–433
_________________
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC.,
PETITIONER v. JESSE BUSK ET AL.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
[December 9, 2014]
JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The employer in this case required its employees, warehouse workers who retrieved inventory and packaged it
for shipment, to undergo an antitheft security screening before leaving the warehouse each day. The question
presented is whether the employees’ time spent waiting to
undergo and undergoing those security screenings is
compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
(FLSA), 29 U. S. C. §201 et seq., as amended by the Portalto-Portal Act of 1947, §251 et seq. We hold that the time is
not compensable. We therefore reverse the judgment of
the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
I
Petitioner Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., provides
warehouse staffing to Amazon.com throughout the United
States.
Respondents Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro
worked as hourly employees of Integrity Staffing at warehouses in Las Vegas and Fenley, Nevada, respectively. As
warehouse employees, they retrieved products from the
shelves and packaged those products for delivery to Amazon customers.
2
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK
Opinion of the Court
Integrity Staffing required its employees to undergo a
security screening before leaving the warehouse at the end
of each day. During this screening, employees removed
items such as wallets, keys, and belts from their persons
and passed through metal detectors.
In 2010, Busk and Castro filed a putative class action
against Integrity Staffing on behalf of similarly situated
employees in the Nevada warehouses for alleged violations
of the FLSA and Nevada labor laws. As relevant here, the
employees alleged that they were entitled to compensation
under the FLSA for the time spent waiting to undergo and
actually undergoing the security screenings. They alleged
that such time amounted to roughly 25 minutes each day
and that it could have been reduced to a de minimis
amount by adding more security screeners or by staggering the termination of shifts so that employees could flow
through the checkpoint more quickly. They also alleged
that the screenings were conducted “to prevent employee
theft” and thus occurred “solely for the benefit of the employers and their customers.” App. 19, 21.
The District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to
state a claim, holding that the time spent waiting for and
undergoing the security screenings was not compensable
under the FLSA. It explained that, because the screenings
occurred after the regular work shift, the employees could
state a claim for compensation only if the screenings were
an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities they were employed to perform. The District Court
held that these screenings were not integral and indispensable but instead fell into a noncompensable category of
postliminary activities.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in relevant part. 713 F. 3d 525 (2013). The
Court of Appeals asserted that postshift activities that
would ordinarily be classified as noncompensable postliminary activities are nevertheless compensable as integral
Cite as: 574 U. S. ____ (2014)
3
Opinion of the Court
and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities if
those postshift activities are necessary to the principal
work performed and done for the benefit of the employer.
Id., at 530. Accepting as true the allegation that Integrity
Staffing required the security screenings to prevent employee theft, the Court of Appeals concluded that the
screenings were “necessary” to the employees’ primary
work as warehouse employees and done for Integrity
Staffing’s benefit. Id., at 531.
We granted certiorari, 571 U. S. ___ (2014), and now
reverse.
II
A
Enacted in 1938, the FLSA established a minimum
wage and overtime compensation for each hour worked in
excess of 40 hours in each workweek. §§6(a)(1), 7(a)(3), 52
Stat. 1062–1063. An employer who violated these provisions could be held civilly liable for backpay, liquidated
damages, and attorney’s fees. §16, id., at 1069.
But the FLSA did not define “work” or “workweek,” and
this Court interpreted those terms broadly. It defined
“work” as “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and
pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the
employer and his business.” Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co.
v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U. S. 590, 598 (1944).
Similarly, it defined “the statutory workweek” to “includ[e]
all time during which an employee is necessarily required
to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace.” Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co.,
328 U. S. 680, 690–691 (1946). Applying these expansive
definitions, the Court found compensable the time spent
traveling between mine portals and underground work
areas, Tennessee Coal, supra, at 598, and the time spent
walking from timeclocks to work benches, Anderson, su-
4
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK
Opinion of the Court
pra, at 691–692.
These decisions provoked a flood of litigation. In the six
months following this Court’s decision in Anderson, unions
and employees filed more than 1,500 lawsuits under the
FLSA. S. Rep. No. 37, 80th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 2–3
(1947). These suits sought nearly $6 billion in back pay
and liquidated damages for various preshift and postshift
activities. Ibid.
Congress responded swiftly. It found that the FLSA
had “been interpreted judicially in disregard of longestablished customs, practices, and contracts between
employers and employees, thereby creating wholly unexpected liabilities, immense in amount and retroactive in
operation, upon employers.” 29 U. S. C. §251(a). Declaring the situation to be an “emergency,” Congress found
that, if such interpretations “were permitted to stand, . . .
the payment of such liabilities would bring about financial
ruin of many employers” and “employees would receive
windfall payments . . . for activities performed by them
without any expectation of reward beyond that included in
their agreed rates of pay.” §§251(a)–(b).
Congress met this emergency with the Portal-to-Portal
Act. The Portal-to-Portal Act exempted employers from
liability for future claims based on two categories of workrelated activities as follows:
“(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) [which covers
work compensable by contract or custom], no employer
shall be subject to any liability or punishment under
the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended,
. . . on account of the failure of such employer . . .
to pay an employee overtime compensation, for or on
account of any of the following activities of such employee engaged in on or after the date of the enactment of this Act—
“(1) walking, riding, or traveling to and from the ac-
Cite as: 574 U. S. ____ (2014)
5
Opinion of the Court
tual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform,
and
“(2) activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities,
“which occur either prior to the time on any particular
workday at which such employee commences, or subsequent to the time on any particular workday at
which he ceases, such principal activity or activities.”
§4, 61 Stat. 86–87 (codified at 29 U. S. C. §254(a)).
At issue here is the exemption for “activities which are
preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or
activities.”
B
This Court has consistently interpreted “the term ‘principal activity or activities’ [to] embrac[e] all activities
which are an ‘integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.’ ” IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U. S. 21, 29–30
(2005) (quoting Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U. S. 247, 252–253
(1956)). Our prior opinions used those words in their
ordinary sense. The word “integral” means “[b]elonging to
or making up an integral whole; constituent, component;
spec[ifically] necessary to the completeness or integrity of
the whole; forming an intrinsic portion or element, as
distinguished from an adjunct or appendage.” 5 Oxford
English Dictionary 366 (1933) (OED); accord, Brief for
United States as Amicus Curiae 20 (Brief for United
States); see also Webster’s New International Dictionary
1290 (2d ed. 1954) (Webster’s Second) (“[e]ssential to
completeness; constituent, as a part”). And, when used to
describe a duty, “indispensable” means a duty “[t]hat
cannot be dispensed with, remitted, set aside, disregarded,
or neglected.” 5 OED 219; accord, Brief for United States
19; see also Webster’s Second 1267 (“[n]ot capable of being
dispensed with, set aside, neglected, or pronounced nonob-
6
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK
Opinion of the Court
ligatory”). An activity is therefore integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform 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. As we
describe below, this definition, as applied in these circumstances, is consistent with the Department of Labor’s
regulations.
Our precedents have identified several activities that
satisfy this test. For example, we have held compensable
the time battery-plant employees spent showering and
changing clothes because the chemicals in the plant were
“toxic to human beings” and the employer conceded that
“the clothes-changing and showering activities of the
employees [were] indispensable to the performance of
their productive work and integrally related thereto.”
Steiner, supra, at 249, 251. And we have held compensable the time meatpacker employees spent sharpening their
knives because dull knives would “slow down production”
on the assembly line, “affect the appearance of the meat as
well as the quality of the hides,” “cause waste,” and lead to
“accidents.” Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U. S. 260,
262 (1956). By contrast, we have held noncompensable
the time poultry-plant employees spent waiting to don
protective gear because such waiting was “two steps removed from the productive activity on the assembly line.”
IBP, supra, at 42.
The Department of Labor’s regulations are consistent
with this approach. See 29 CFR §790.8(b) (2013) (“The
term ‘principal activities’ includes all activities which are
an integral part of a principal activity”); §790.8(c) (“Among
the activities included as an integral part of a principal
activity are those closely related activities which are
indispensable to its performance”). As an illustration,
those regulations explain that the time spent by an employee in a chemical plant changing clothes would be
Cite as: 574 U. S. ____ (2014)
7
Opinion of the Court
compensable if he “c[ould not] perform his principal activities without putting on certain clothes” but would not be
compensable if “changing clothes [were] merely a convenience to the employee and not directly related to his principal activities.” See §790.8(c). As the regulations explain,
“when performed under the conditions normally present,”
activities including “checking in and out and waiting in
line to do so, changing clothes, washing up or showering,
and waiting in line to receive pay checks” are “ ‘preliminary’ ” or “ ‘postliminary’ ” activities. §790.7(g).
III
A
The security screenings at issue here are noncompensable postliminary activities. To begin with, the screenings
were not the “principal activity or activities which [the]
employee is employed to perform.” 29 U. S. C. §254(a)(1).
Integrity Staffing did not employ its workers to undergo
security screenings, but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package those products for shipment to
Amazon customers.
The security screenings also were not “integral and
indispensable” to the employees’ duties as warehouse
workers. As explained above, an activity is not integral
and indispensable to an employee’s principal activities
unless it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one
with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform those activities. The screenings were not an intrinsic
element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or
packaging them for shipment. And Integrity Staffing
could have eliminated the screenings altogether without
impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work.
The Solicitor General, adopting the position of the Department of Labor, agrees that these screenings were
noncompensable postliminary activities. See Brief for
United States 10. That view is fully consistent with an
8
INTEGRITY STAFFING SOLUTIONS, INC. v. BUSK
Opinion of the Court
Opinion Letter the Department issued in 1951. The letter
found noncompensable a preshift security search of employees in a rocket-powder plant “ ‘for matches, spark
producing devices such as cigarette lighters, and other
items which have a direct bearing on the safety of the
employees,’ ” as well as a postshift security search of the
employees done “ ‘for the purpose of preventing theft.’ ”
Opinion Letter from Dept. of Labor, Wage and Hour Div.,
to Dept. of Army, Office of Chief of Ordnance (Apr. 18,
1951), pp. 1–2 (available in Clerk of Court’s case file). The
Department 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.
B
The Court of Appeals erred by focusing on whether an
employer required a particular activity. The integral and
indispensable test is tied to the productive work that the
employee is employed to perform. See, e.g., IBP, 546 U. S.,
at 42; Mitchell, supra, at 262; Steiner, 350 U. S., at 249–
251; see also 29 CFR §790.8(a) (explaining that the term
“principal activities” was “considered sufficiently broad to
embrace within its terms such activities as are indispensable to the performance of productive work” (internal
quotation marks omitted; emphasis added)); §790.8(c)
(“Among the activities included as an integral part of a
principal activity are those closely related activities which
are indispensable to its perfor …
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