Warehouse workers have filed a proposed class action alleging that Amazon violated state law in Colorado by failing to pay warehouse workers for time spent undergoing COVID-19 screenings before clocking in at work.
According to a Reuters news report, Jennifer Vincenzetti, who worked at two Amazon warehouses in Colorado Springs, filed the proposed class action in federal court claiming that the company made workers wait in long lines to answer questions and have their temperatures checked.
The proposed class includes more than 10,000 people at five Colorado warehouses.
Long Wait Times for Screening
Advocates say Amazon comes off looking like the good guy making efforts to keep its workers safe during the pandemic, but workers end up footing the bill. The complaint states that beginning in March 2020, Amazon required employees at Colorado warehouses to arrive early, wait in lines outside facilities and then answer questions and check their temperature once they were inside. The process took anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes, the lawsuit said.
This time is compensable under Colorado law, which says workers must be paid when they are required to be on their employer’s premises or on duty. Amazon has argued in a similar lawsuit in California federal court that because screenings primarily benefit workers, they do not amount to compensable time under federal wage law. Wal-Mart has raised the same defense in a proposed class action in Arizona federal court claiming that the retail giant’s failure to compensate employees for time spent in COVID screenings violated state law.
Compensable Time Under California Law
So, what is compensable time for workers under California law? In a 2018 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court explained that there are two categories of compensable time – the time when employees are “under the control” of the employer, whether or not the employee is actually engaging in work activities, and the time when an employee is “is suffered or permitted to work” whether or not required to do so.
If your employer is requiring you to come in early to work so you can undergo COVID screening and asking you to wait in line for 20 to 60 minutes to be screened, it would appear that it’s a period of time when you are under your employer’s control, which would make that time compensable.
If you believe that your employer is shortchanging your wages, it is likely that they are doing the same to your co-workers. In such cases, a class-action lawsuit may be a viable option. An experienced California wage and hour lawyer will be able to answer your questions and make recommendations.