Does your employer require you to go through a security screening before you go on the clock? If so, they might be breaking the law — but if they are, they’re not alone. Employees who work for companies that require security screenings often are not compensated for time spent being screened. Just a few years ago, groups of employees started filing suit against their employers for wage theft. Their basic argument was, of course, that they should be compensated for time given to the employer. If you are ever expected to give up your time without being compensated, here is what you need to know.
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Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Fact Sheet No. 22 from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division covers Hours Worked Under the FLSA. The fact sheet has a series of specific definitions, such as “workday.” A workday is the period of time on any given day that an employee begins and ends his or her “principle activity.”
This page of defnitions is helpful because problems routinely arise in workplaces when employers fail to recognize certain hours worked as part of the “workday” and, therefore, as compensable hours.
The crux of the legal argument between employers who require security screenings and their employees is whether or not employees are performing their principle activities while undergoing screening procedures. The employer argument is that employees are not actually working while the guard goes through their purses. The employee is argument is that they are required by the employer to be there and submit to the screening; therefore, the time spent is compensable.
One way employers may try to get around this is to make the screenings quick and efficient. However, if the screenings are quick and efficient, then it shouldn’t break their banks to pay employees in a fair manner.
Benefit of the Employer
Another argument that employers are preparing to respond is that the security screenings are done solely for the employer’s benefit. If this is proven in court, then the time must be compensable. If, however, employers craft an argument that employees benefit from having their bags picked through or being pat down, they might get away with not paying people for time spent in screenings. Some employees find it demeaning to be treated like a criminal for no cause. On the other hand, if an employee submits to a screening, and merchandise is found to be stolen, at least that employee is not likely to be suspect.
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