Barkan Meizlish , June 23, 2020
As with most aspects of life, COVID-19 has changed the daily routine of many workers. Today, the average worker is usually asked to have their temperature checked before beginning their workday. While the effectiveness of the practice in preventing the spread of the virus is debatable, the practice is currently required by many employers. Currently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces civil rights in the workplace, has stated that while conducting temperature checks does not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, it may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and some state employment compensation laws.
These temperature checks may be a violation of the FLSA because employees who have to spend several minutes waiting their turn for the check may be uncompensated for this time. The FLSA states that activities that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities” of an employee are compensable. While activities that are preliminary and postliminary to principle activities are not compensable under the FLSA. When an employee cannot perform his “regular” job without first engaging in the preliminary activity, then the preliminary activity becomes ‘integral and indispensable’ and therefore compensable.
These temperature checks could be argued to be ‘principle’ or ‘preliminary’ depending on your perspective. Time spent by employees putting on and taking off protective gear and walking between their work station and the protective gear changing areas were both deemed compensable activities. So, if we could liken the temperature check to being a protective measure against infecting their fellow employees like putting on protective gear would likely be a principle and compensable activity. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that time spent waiting to put on protective gear is not a compensable activity. Since waiting in line for the temperature check will likely be the most time-consuming activity, this activity may be considered preliminary and non- compensable.
Depending on how the federal or state courts rule on this issue, employers could face potential wage and hour claims related to this activity. It may be most advisable to employers to compensate the temperature checks before this becomes a litigated issue.
– Audrey Bidwell
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