Unpaid Wait Time
Unpaid Health Screening Time
As Reuters recently reported, Amazon.com, Inc. is being sued for failing to pay wages to workers required to wait in line for COVID-19 health screening. As reported and as alleged in the legal complaint against Amazon, workers were required to wait in long lines before entry into Amazon’s order-fulfillment centers (and other worksites) for health screening. The unpaid wait times reportedly averaged 20 minutes, but were sometimes up to an hour. Amazon did not pay its workers for the time waiting for screening.
Now, a former Amazon warehouse employee has filed suit seeking to create a class action case against Amazon seeking to recover unpaid wages (and overtime) for thousands of workers related to the unpaid wait time. According to the report, the case is brought under Colorado labor laws which are more worker-friendly than federal labor laws.
Amazon has argued in similar cases filed across the country that worker health screening wait time is not compensable because it is a “benefit” to workers. However, under Colorado law, being “beneficial” to workers is not relevant to whether worker time is compensable. In fact, the regulations are pretty clear on this point. Colorado employers must pay workers for all “time worked.” According to the regulations, “time worked” means “time during which an employee is performing labor or services for the benefit of an employer, including all time s/he is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” See CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103, sec. 1.9. The regulations clearly identify “safety screening” as an example of time that is deemed “time worked.” The regulations state that, if “such tasks take over one minute,” the following “shall be considered time worked that must be compensated” (emphasis added):
“… putting on or removing required work clothes or gear (but not a uniform worn outside work as well), receiving or sharing work-related information, security or safety screening, remaining at the place of employment awaiting a decision on job assignment or when to begin work, performing clean-up or other duties “off the clock,” clocking or checking in or out, or waiting for any of the preceding …”
Amazon might argue that the COVID-19 testing/screening is different from “safety” screening. But that argument is likely to fail. Amazon also might argue that the company does not benefit from COVID-19 screening, but that argument will also likely fail.
As reported, the newly filed lawsuit also claims that Amazon failed to pay for other “off-the-clock” tasks that workers were required to do before and after their shifts. As can be seen from the regulations quoted above, depending on the facts and evidence and if the “off-the-clock” tasks took longer than a minute, Amazon will likely have to pay those claims, too.
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