Pennsylvania Employers Beware: The State’s Highest Court Expands the Bounds of Compensable Time

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In a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that employers in the state must now pay employees for time spent on their premises when waiting for – and undergoing – required security searches.

The court explained that this period of time, even if insubstantial, is compensable because it qualifies as “hours worked” under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA):

Hours worked … includes time during which an employee is required by the employer to be on the premises of the employer ….”

Notwithstanding that an employee is not performing job-related duties while undergoing this process, the court found that the on-site aspect of the mandatory security screenings is what categorized this conduct as “compensable hours worked.” The court further rejected the application of a “de minimis” exception to the PMWA, specifically finding that such an exception is inconsistent with the statute under these facts. Notably, though the court reached its decision here applying Pennsylvania law, the same result would not necessarily be reached under the Fair Labor Standards Act and applicable federal court precedent.

Moving forward, Pennsylvania employers must review, adjust and/or modify their handbooks and other workplace policies, practices or procedures that require employees to remain on the premises when completing the same or similar security searches. Employers should also review any other “off the clock” work employees may be performing. The key factor identified by the court in making this time compensable is the location of the activity, i.e., the worksite. As such, employers should proceed accordingly.

The court’s opinion can be accessed here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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