Walmart has failed to properly pay workers for time spent undergoing mandatory COVID-19 screenings prior to each shift, a proposed class action claims.
The 14-page lawsuit alleges the mega-retailer has required workers to show up before their scheduled shift start times to complete a questionnaire, screening and body temperature scan yet has not paid the individuals for this additional work time.
The plaintiffs, former Walmart employees in Arizona, allege the company has “demonstrated its knowledge” that pre-shift time spent by workers in COVID-19 screenings should be compensated when it began to add an additional five minutes to each employee’s daily recorded work time in November 2020 to “partially compensate for the screenings.” The extra five minutes of work time, however, is “insufficient to fully compensate the affected Walmart employees” for how much time they actually spend being screened for coronavirus prior to their shifts, the complaint alleges, adding that the retailer made no effort to reimburse workers for any of their time spent undergoing COVID-19 screenings prior to last November.
According to the lawsuit, Walmart employs more than 33,600 workers in Arizona across its stable of supercenters, discount stores, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Clubs. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the suit says, Walmart implemented a company-wide policy requiring every hourly, non-exempt employee to undergo a physical and medical exam prior to each shift to check for COVID-19 symptoms. These checks are conducted on each Walmart premises and necessary for each employee to perform their work for the retailer, the case relays.
Per the complaint, the pre-shift COVID-19 screening process for Walmart employees typically involves standing in a line with other workers and waiting for the “sole person designated by Walmart” to take everyone’s temperature before asking a series of questions related to each individual’s health. These questions include whether an employee has had trouble breathing, has had chest pain, has been coughing or has developed a runny nose, according to the case. Employees are also asked whether they’ve traveled recently and whether they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 before being given a face mask and gloves that they must put on before entering the store, the suit says.
After this process, an employee typically must walk to the opposite end of the store to access Walmart’s time clocks in order to clock in, the lawsuit says. Should an employee not pass the initial COVID-19 check, they must spend even more time on another examination prior to the start of their shift:
“The employee is then asked a series of follow-up questions to identify whether the worker currently has symptoms of COVID-19 and poses a potential health hazard to the store and its customers. If the employee passes the second examination, the employee is then given a face mask and gloves and permitted to enter the store and eventually clock-in for the day. If not, the employee is not permitted to continuing [sic] working that day and is not permitted to clock in.”
According to the lawsuit, Walmart, despite requiring employees to take time before their shifts to undergo COVID-19 screenings, does not allow workers to clock in sooner than approximately eight minutes before their scheduled shift start times. The issue, the lawsuit claims, is that it ordinarily takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes on average – or longer if there are several people ahead in line – for a worker to undergo and complete a pre-shift COVID-19 screening.
“The time spent by Walmart’s employees arriving early to wait in line and then undergo the COVID-19 screening should have been paid by Walmart because it constitutes compensable time worked,” the complaint asserts. “During this time, Plaintiffs were subject to the control of Walmart.”
The case looks to represent all individuals who are currently working or previously worked for Walmart as an hourly employee in a Walmart facility in Arizona and participated in required pre-shift COVID-19 screenings.
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