Recent Ninth Circuit Decision Finds Oregon Employers Not Required to Pay for Security Checks

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a District of Oregon ruling for, Inc., stating that the plaintiff failed to allege that undergoing mandatory security screenings was “an integral and indispensable part” of her principal activities. Buero v. Services, Inc., 2023 WL 2443096 (9th Cir. 2023).

In the underlying case, Plaintiff Lindsey Buero filed a class action lawsuit against Services, Inc. and, Inc., alleging that employees were not compensated for time spent undergoing mandatory security screenings. Plaintiff alleged that because employees were not paid for time spent undergoing these screenings, which occurred before and after work shifts and employee breaks, the defendants’ practices violated Oregon’s wage and hour laws. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings to the defendants, however, and the plaintiff subsequently appealed the court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. After concluding that Oregon had not yet definitively determined whether time spent undergoing mandatory security screenings is compensable, the Ninth Circuit certified the issue to the Oregon Supreme Court.

In response, the state supreme court held that the relevant Oregon state statutes mirror their federal counterparts. Given that conclusion, the court stated, a determination of whether time spent in an activity is compensable under Oregon’s statutes may be reached by looking at whether that time would be compensable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Therefore, the state court looked to Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, where the United States Supreme Court determined whether time spent undergoing mandatory security screenings was compensable under the FLSA. 574 U.S. 27 (2014). There, holding that such time was not compensable under the FLSA, the Supreme Court stated that time spent in activities before or after an employee’s regular work shift is not compensable, unless those activities are either (1) an integral and indispensable part of the employees’ principal activities, or (2) compensable as a matter of contract, custom or practice. Accordingly, to be compensated under Oregon law for time spent in activities before or after their regular work shifts, Oregon employees would also be required to demonstrate that the activities fell within either of these two exceptions.

Upon receiving this answer from the Oregon Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit noted that the plaintiff had failed to allege that either of the two exceptions applied in her case. The court also noted that, even though the Oregon Supreme Court had not specifically examined the issue of time spent undergoing security screenings before and after meal breaks, the result would be the same. As with the screenings before and after regular work shifts, the time spent undergoing screenings before and after meal breaks would only be compensable if it fell within one of the two delineated exceptions. As such, because the plaintiff had failed to properly allege that the defendants had violated Oregon law, the Ninth Circuit found that the district court properly granted judgment on the pleadings, affirming the lower court’s ruling.

Read more issues of the National Employment Perspective >>