A proposed collective action claims O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC has failed to pay workers for mandatory COVID-19 and security screenings that occur before and after their shifts.
According to the 15-page lawsuit, these off-the-clock screenings and checks constitute compensable work time in that employees were subject to O’Reilly’s control and could not use the time for their own purposes. The case, filed in California federal court on June 16, claims O’Reilly has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay employees for every hour worked.
O’Reilly owns a line of automotive retailers that specialize in aftermarket parts and accessories. As part of its operations, the company relies on a system of 28 distribution centers to supply inventory to its retail locations, the complaint relays. According to the suit, the plaintiff worked at O’Reilly’s Moreno Valley distribution center from July 2015 to February 2021 and was responsible for transporting auto parts from the distribution center to southern California stores.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, the defendant implemented a COVID-19 screening that employees were required to undergo at the beginning of each shift and before clocking in, the lawsuit says. Per the case, the screening involved workers being asked a series of questions with regard to their potential exposure to the virus and any present health symptoms and included a temperature check. The lawsuit says the off-the-clock screenings, which were performed in a section of the distribution center’s parking lot, usually took between two and five minutes but sometimes longer depending on how many employees were waiting in line.
According to the suit, employees should have been compensated for time spent undergoing the daily COVID-19 screening given they were subject to the defendant’s control, had no option of opting out and were threatened with disciplinary action if they failed to comply with the screening.
“O’Reilly’s control and restraint prevented Plaintiff and the FLSA Collective from using this time for their own purposes,” the complaint alleges.
The plaintiff says he and other employees, after passing the COVID-19 screening, were then required to undergo a security check before they could clock in for work. The security check, according to the suit, took place in the employee lounge and involved workers emptying their pockets, removing any metals, opening bags, walking through the metal detector and finally collecting their belongings before they were permitted to continue into the distribution center area and clock in for their shifts. Employees were subjected to a similar security screening after clocking out for their shifts and before leaving the premises, the lawsuit adds.
Although the security checks took an average of two to five minutes, they sometimes took longer depending on how many people were waiting in line, according to the plaintiff. The lawsuit argues that the security checks, like the COVID-19 screenings, should also have counted as compensable work time since the employees remained under the defendant’s control and were prevented from using the time for their own purposes.
“For instance, Plaintiff and the FLSA Collective could not use their cell phones or consume any food given that these items were prohibited from entering the distribution center,” the case reads.
The plaintiff alleges that when he worked more than eight hours in a day or 40 in a week, the time spent in COVID-19 screenings and security checks should have been paid at his time-and-a-half overtime rate.
The lawsuit looks to cover current and former non-exempt employees of O’Reilly Auto Enterprises who underwent a COVID-19 screening or security inspection during at least one week within the past three years and until the present.
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