Walmart Inc. and Amazon.com Services, LLC face separate proposed class actions that claim the retail heavyweights have unlawfully failed to pay workers for time spent undergoing mandatory COVID-19 screenings.
The lawsuits say employees at Walmart’s retail stores and both companies’ fulfillment centers must spend time undergoing temperature checks and answering a series of questions as part of a physical and medical examination before they are permitted to clock in. Since time spent undergoing mandatory COVID-19 checks counts as compensable time worked, Walmart and Amazon employees should have been paid at their regular or overtime rates, the complaints argue.
The lawsuit against Amazon further alleges workers have been required to undergo unpaid security checks after returning from lunch breaks, and were paid at a reduced overtime rate that failed to take into account all wages earned.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart and Amazon implemented company-wide policies that required every hourly employee to undergo an examination to check for COVID-19 symptoms prior to each shift, according to the suits.
Walmart, one of the lawsuits claims, requires retail employees to arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of their shifts and line up in the store’s garden center or auto center for their examinations. Per the suit, the screening process involves a Walmart employee taking each worker’s temperature and asking a series of questions, including whether they’ve had trouble breathing, were coughing, had a runny nose, experienced chest pain, and other health-related inquiries, as well as whether they had traveled recently or been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
If the employee passes the examination, they are given a face mask, gloves and a dated sticker indicating that they’ve cleared the screening, according to the case. If the employee does not pass the initial examination, they are subjected to a second exam in which they are asked a series of follow-up questions to assess whether they have COVID-19 symptoms and present a health risk to the store, the lawsuit says. If the employee passes the second examination, they are similarly provided with a face mask, gloves and dated sticker, the complaint reads. The lawsuit states that a similar screening procedure is in effect at Walmart’s fulfillment centers.
According to the suit against Walmart, the COVID-19 screening process takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes but can last longer if other employees are in line to be screened.
The lawsuit against Amazon describes a similar screening process at the company’s fulfillment centers. Per the complaint, employees swipe their identification badge at a security booth and are asked a series of questions, including whether they’ve been exposed to others with COVID-19, are experiencing a runny nose or shortness of breath, and have a face mask to wear. At a second checkpoint, the workers are subjected to a temperature check, the suit says. The lawsuit also describes a second screening method substantially similar to the one employed at Walmart.
The cases contend that during the COVID-19 screenings, workers are subject to Walmart’s or Amazon’s control and are required to perform a series of tasks under threat of discipline.
“In other words,” the complaints state, “[Walmart and Amazon] direct, command, and restrain [their] employees during the COVID-19 examination; prevent them from using that time effectively for their own purposes; and they remain subject to [Walmart’s and Amazon’s] control during the examination.”
Under California law, time spent undergoing COVID-19 screenings is compensable and should be paid at employees’ regular or overtime rates, the lawsuits say.
The case against Amazon goes on to allege that workers are required to undergo mandatory security screenings following their lunch breaks without being properly paid for such. According to the suit, workers who arrive at the company’s fulfillment centers are required to empty their pockets and bags, remove their shoes, belts, jackets, and all metal objects, and present their personal items for inspection. After passing through a metal detector, the workers are permitted to gather their belongings and proceed into the fulfillment center, the case says. Whenever a worker leaves the facility for their lunch break, however, they are required to clock out and submit to the security screening upon returning, the suit attests. Because the workers have clocked out, they are not paid for the time spent in the screening, which usually takes five to 10 minutes, according to the lawsuit.
Finally, the lawsuit against Amazon claims workers have been underpaid for overtime hours given the company issued additional payments that were not factored into employees’ regular pay rates for the purpose of calculating time-and-a-half overtime.
Per the cases, Walmart and Amazon are aware of the requirements under state law to properly pay employees for every hour worked yet have “intentionally and/or recklessly chose not to do so.”
The complaints can be found below.
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