The Oregon Supreme Court recently ruled that Oregon wage and hour law is consistent with federal law in not requiring employees to be paid for time spent in mandatory security screenings at the end of their shifts because the screening activity wasn’t integral and indispensable to their principal work activities.
As we previously reported, in 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that time spent in tasks before or after a shift only counts as work time under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if the activity is “integral and indispensable” to employees’ principal activities, or if there is a contract, custom, or practice that requires the time to be paid. The Court explained that under federal law it doesn’t matter whether a pre-shift or post-shift activity is required by the employer. The question is whether the activity is “an intrinsic element” of employees’ principal activities (i.e., of the work they were hired to perform) that cannot be dispensed with. In that case, the Court ruled that standing in line to go through security screenings after a shift wasn’t integral and indispensable to the workers’ job of retrieving items and packaging them for shipment at an Amazon warehouse, so no compensation was owed to the workers.
The facts were nearly identical in the recent Oregon case, in which an Amazon warehouse worker claimed Oregon law required payment for time spent in the company’s mandatory screening process at the end of each shift. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Oregon wage and hour laws regarding what activities are compensable were intended to mirror federal law. The court concluded: “Therefore, just as under federal law, whether time spent waiting for and undergoing mandatory security screenings on an employer’s premises is compensable under Oregon law depends on whether the screenings are either (1) an integral and indispensable part of an employee’s principal activities or (2) compensable as a matter of contract, custom, or practice” (Buero v. Amazon.com Services, Inc., dba Amazon Fulfillment Services, Inc., Or, Dec. 2022).
Tips: In answering this question, the court acknowledged that “not receiving compensation for the time [the employee] was required to be on her employer’s premises for the employer’s benefit—certainly raises a policy question whether all employees should be compensated for time spent in mandatory security screenings like those at issue in this case.” But the court said the employee’s only recourse is to ask the state legislature to change Oregon law. From a practical standpoint, Vigilant recommends that even if you aren’t legally required to pay for pre-shift or post-shift activities, you should consider impacts on retention, recruiting, and employee relations, in deciding whether to pay for such time.
Also, keep in mind that if employees actually perform any work before or after the shift, they must be paid for their time. See our Legal Guide, Compensation for Pre-Shift and Post-Shift Activities. And as we recently reported, a federal district court in Oregon has ruled that rounding work time to the nearest 5, 10, or 15-minute increment violates Oregon state law, because employees must be paid for every minute of their time worked. See our Legal Guide, Watch Out for Wage and Hour Issues with Time Clocks.