Employers that conduct temperature checks on employees before allowing them to work their shifts might be on the hook for the time they spend awaiting those checks, Bloomberg Law reports.

Attorneys point to the 2014 US Supreme Court ruling in Integrity Staffing v. Busk, in which staffing firm workers sought payment for time spent after each shift waiting in security screening lines when leaving the warehouse of staffing client Amazon.com. The court said because the screenings were not an integral part of the worker’s jobs, the time spent awaiting them was noncompensable.

“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,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion.

The high court ruled that the time the workers spent in a queue to be checked for stolen items wasn’t an “integral and indispensable” aspect of their roles, and therefore shouldn’t be compensated.

However, due to the Covid-19 crisis, temperature checks are required in order for workers to enter the premises and perform their duties, attorney Joshua Erlich of Arlington, Virginia-based Erlich Law Office, told Bloomberg Law. Therefore, employers should expect the temperature checks would be viewed as integral and indispensable to the workers’ roles, and thus, are likely to be considered compensable.

Security check pursuit. Regarding security checks and the courts, following the 2014 court ruling, plaintiffs have pursued claims under state law. The case was consolidated with similar ones in federal court in Kentucky, where it was dismissed, a decision that was then overturned by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The US Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear the case on appeal.

And in a separate case in California this year, a court ruled Apple Inc. must pay store employees for time spent in security lines, waiting for managers and/or security personnel to check their personnel bags and cell phones for possible theft.