Supreme Court Rules Against Employees in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Appeal

Supreme Court Rules Against Employees in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Appeal


In the closely monitored high profile case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Busk, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that internet retail giant Amazon and its contracted employment agency, Integrity Staffing Solutions, are not required to pay employees for the time they spend waiting to be screened after they clock out from work. The original lawsuit stated that employees must wait up to 25 minutes every day just to pass through a security checkpoint, and that the wait is not optional.

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that waiting in line does not pass the test of being “integral and indispensable” to their jobs, as is required by federal law. If the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the employees, the decision would have had sweeping implications for other businesses that require their employees to pass through security checkpoints before leaving work.

Lawsuit History

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2010 by two employees who worked at one of Amazon’s facilities in Nevada. The employees contended that the security checkpoints were understaffed, and shifts for multiple employees ended at the same time. So, the lines to leave were often very long. They, and others, believed that because the security checkpoints were not optional they should be compensated for their time. The employees also believed that Amazon should be required to implement measures that would reduce the time spent waiting in line. A district judge did not buy the employee’s argument and dismissed the original suit.

On appeal, the lower court’s decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, where it was determined that the security checkpoints were in fact relevant to the employee’s jobs, and the searches benefitted the company. As a result of the court’s reversal, an appeal was then filed by Integrity Staffing Solutions, and it was heard by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s Response

In his response, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Amazon “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.” Thus, the act of waiting to be screened cannot be categorized as “integral and indispensable” to the job. In addition, Justice Thomas wrote that the argument made by employees that methods could be used to reduce waiting time should be “properly presented to the employer at the bargaining table, not to a court.”

Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor agreed with the Court’s decision. They, too, made a distinction between the processes of checking in and out of work and actually performing assigned tasks. Since the security checkpoints are not relevant to the work performed, they argued, the company isn’t responsible to pay its employees for the time they spend going through the screening process.

Echoing the sentiment of the other judges, Justice Antonin Scalia stated during the proceedings that the search “is not part of the job”. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. went even further, saying “No one’s principal activity is going through security screening. He hires them to do something else and then the employee screening is certainly not the principal.”

The case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Busk was critical because if the Supreme Court had sided with the employees, the decision would have set a nationwide precedent. The domino effect would have eventually resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being paid to employees in nearly every industry.

Commercial Drones: Are They Legal?

Commercial Drones: Are They Legal?

droneAnytime potentially significant technology becomes available, new laws must be enacted to ensure the rights, safety and security of all who live and work with and around said technology. Unmanned aircraft, or drones, are no exception. The hype that has built around the business potential offered by drones has hit a fever pitch, with business owners even trying out drones as vehicles for product delivery. Be warned, however, because the legal path has not yet been cleared for businesses to take advantage of this new technology, and you could end up in court.

No Consensus

The Federal Aviation Administration, along with federal, local and state courts, have been grappling with the issue of drones, but they haven’t yet reached a consensus. The courts have reversed more than one FAA decision, though the FAA still prohibits all drone use for commercial or business purposes, except when an industry or business is given an exemption, as was the case recently in the Los Angeles area. Given that exceptions are available, is it easy to get one? The answer is no.

Can You Get an Exception?

Currently, there are three paths to being granted an exception to using drones for your business. Until the FAA and the courts come to an understanding and agreement on the rules of airspace use, it’s best to follow one of these three methods to avoid confusion and the headache of dealing with the FAA.

  • The first option is to make your way around some of the federal aviation regulations (FARs). For example, there is a FAR that requires a registration certificate to be displayed. Since drones are unmanned, there won’t be anyone aboard to see the certificate.
  • Second, someone who operates in the private sector can apply for an SACE, or Special Airworthiness Certificate/Experimental. This certificate can be used to fly the unmanned aircraft for specific purposes (research, training), but only in a very specifically defined area that must be approved by the FAA.
    The SACE application is 20 pages long, and consists of questions about the flight characteristics and design of the drone. Rarely does the FAA grant a request, and most that are approved are subjugated to one of only six sites that were approved by the FAA for research into drone integration. There are exceptions, however, including larger drones that are allowed to be flown in Alaska for the purposes of gas and oil exploration.
  • Finally, the third path is to be granted a Certificate of Waiver and Authorization, or COWA. Formally, this process isn’t available to civilians, but only governmental groups (military, police). While the FAA has granted several hundred COWAs, they have been mainly for said governmental agencies.

As is obvious, getting approval from the FAA to use unmanned aircraft for your business is challenging. Unless you own a business that does wildlife research, training, or has ties to gas and oil, right now at least it’s probably best to keep your ideas to implement a drone into your business plans on the back burner. While the courts may back you in the end, following the FAA rules now will save you a lot of time and money.

Liability and a Drug-Free Workplace

Liability and a Drug-Free Workplace

drug-free-workplaceThe competitive environment in which we live and work can tempt many business owners to cut corners to ensure they can keep their products and services competitively priced. Some things simply should not be cut, however, because they elevate the employer’s risk while only reducing the overhead marginally. A case in point is the importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace.

Even in today’s highly competitive marketplace, making sure that your employees are drug free and sober on the job is of paramount importance. Drug testing isn’t required in every industry, but regardless of the bottom line, if you want your business to thrive, you need to be confident that your employees are drug free.

Avoiding Liability

The number one reason given by business owners for mandatory drug testing is that it helps them avoid legal liability. The liability extends to co-workers as well as customers and clients. If an employee is intoxicated and causes harm to another person, or damages property, the business owner can be legally liable. So, when a business owner requires drug testing, it helps him weed out troublesome employees, thus mitigating the potential for problems. However, requiring drug tests to avoid liability issues will only work if you know the laws related to the process. Otherwise, you could be looking at a whole new set of liabilities.

Legal Limits

Drug testing has been recognized by various United States courts as an action that invades the privacy rights of citizens. As such, limitations have been placed on how and when an employer can require a current or potential employee to submit to a drug test.

Overall, those with the most rights are current employees since they could potentially lose their job if a drug test came back positive. Job applicants, however, only lose out on a job opportunity. Since the courts have fought to find a balance between individual and business rights, there are a few limitations that could apply to you and your business if you require drug testing. For example, the most commonly known laws related to drug testing revolve around prescription medication. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against someone who takes a legally prescribed medication that would otherwise be illegal.

Another example of legal protection related to employment drug testing is the act of requiring a specific group of people to be tested for drugs, while forgoing the requirement for others. If an employer only tested his Catholic employees, for example, he would be in violation of discrimination laws. An exception to this rule can be made if the employer requires drug testing for everyone who serves a specific role (ex: delivery drivers). It would not be considered discrimination if the same employer chose not to test the office staff.


The above are general scenarios associated with limits on drug testing. If you have a concern about a specific situation, and whether or not you are legally allowed to drug test someone, contact your state’s labor department.

Understanding the Minimum Wage Component of the FLSA

Understanding the Minimum Wage Component of the FLSA

fair-payOriginally enacted in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, established the 40 hour work week and guaranteed time and a half under certain circumstances, among other federal mandates. One of the key provisions of the FLSA is the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour. Over the years, the FLSA has been amended a handful of times, so it can be complicated to try to determine which employers must adhere to its tenets, and which employees are protected by it.

The FLSA is enforced by the federal government’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which has in excess of 200 local offices in the United States. The WHD has the authority to investigate and enforce the FLSA should an employee file a claim. If a claim is substantiated, the WHD can fine the employer. So, it’s important for any business to have a firm grasp on who and what is covered under the FLSA.

Minimum Wage Exceptions for Young Employees

The myriad minimum wage exceptions can be confusing, and many of them come with strings attached. It is impossible to discuss them all, so here we highlight those involving students and youth.
For employees under the age of 20, the FLSA makes a clear distinction under their Youth Minimum Wage Program. Under this program, an employer can pay an employee under the age of 20 years old a rate of $4.25 per hour, but only for the first 90 consecutive calendar days. Once the 90 days has passed, the employee then must be paid the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.

Another exception to the federal minimum wage rule is the FLSA’s Full-Time Student Program. Under this program, employers can obtain a certificate from the WHD that allows them to pay a full-time student “not less than 85% of a minimum wage”. The certificate also limits the number of hours a student can work, however. The maximum hours a full-time student can work under this program when school is in session is 8 hours per day and 20 hours per week. The student can work a full 40 hour week when school is not in session.

For high school students aged 16+ who are enrolled in vocational courses, the certificate allows an employer to pay no less than 75% of the minimum wage rate for the duration of the student’s enrollment. Keep in mind that some states do set a higher minimum wage requirement than the federal government, so research that information beforehand to ensure that you’re also in compliance with state laws.

What the FLSA Does Not Cover

While the FLSA seems to cover quite a bit of ground related to the do’s and don’ts of employee wages, there are a few areas that it does not delve into. For example, the FLSA does not have guidelines for how to issue breaks (with the exception of nursing mothers), holidays or vacations. Additionally, it doesn’t cover sick pay or severance packages, or regulate pay raises or final checks paid to terminated employees.

As evidenced by the example of exceptions that pertain to hiring youth, it’s clear that the minimum wage piece of the FLSA is complex. However, in order to avoid employees filing complaints with the WHD, as well as the subsequent fall out, it is important to familiarize yourself with the FLSA and stay informed about any changes to the Act. The WHD offers a handy, but thorough, reference guide to the FLSA. Of course, if you have questions, it’s best to contact them directly.