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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Time Spent on Mandatory Security Screenings Is Compensable

On July 21, 2021, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in In re Amazon.com, Inc., that “time spent on an employer’s premises waiting to undergo, and undergoing, mandatory security screenings” qualifies as “hours worked” under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA). In addition, the court also found that “there is no de minimis exception under the PMWA.” 

Compensable Time. In reaching its decision, the court reasoned that the PMWA’s objective is to protect employees’ right to be adequately compensated for all their hours of work. The court also clarified that, historically, this objective has led Pennsylvania to enforce stronger wage payment protections than what is required by federal law. 

The court also pointed to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry publication that states, “hours worked” includes “time during which an employee is required by the employer to be on the premises of the employer.”

The De Minimis Doctrine. Federal law allows employers to disregard de minimis (insubstantial or insignificant) periods of time beyond the scheduled working hours when determining how many hours employees have worked during the workweek (some conditions apply). 

However, the court explains that the PMWA does not provide a de minimis exception to “hours worked” and indicates that it could not discern any intent from the state legislature “to allow a de minimis exception to the PMWA’s irreducible requirements.”

Next Steps for Employers

As a result of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court decision in In re Amazon.com, Inc., employers in the state should be mindful that state law may impose stricter wage payment requirements than federal law and adjust their timekeeping and wage payment practices to ensure that employees are compensated for all hours worked.

HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.