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Amazon Unpaid Wages During COVID Screenings Settled

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A California unpaid wages lawsuit filed by former Amazon warehouse employees in 2021 has reached a settlement.

Santa Clara, CAAn unpaid wages lawsuit filed by former Amazon warehouse employees in a California federal court has reached a settlement. The lawsuit, filed in February 2021, accused Amazon of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code when they were forced to undergo unpaid COVID-19 screenings before clocking in. They spent at least 10 to 15 minutes being screened before each shift.

Here is a brief timeline:

February 2021: Plaintiffs Heather Boone and Roxanne Rivera sued Amazon in a would-be class-action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of California.

June 2021: Amazon says in a motion to dismiss that it has no obligation to pay fulfillment center workers for time spent undergoing mandatory COVID-19 screening and the screenings benefit the general public.

March 2022: The judge had ruled the COVID-19 screenings were potentially performed for the company's benefit and integral to workers' primary duties, supporting their assertion they are owed wages for that time. In its appeal, Amazon told the court that the judge had misinterpreted controlling questions of law.

2023: In the decision in Alvarez v. IBP Inc., the circuit held that time spent donning, doffing and washing protective gear was compensable. The Amazon plaintiffs argued that was similar to the time they spent being screened for COVID-19, because both kinds of duties make workplaces safer and more efficient and ensure companies are complying with the law, thus benefiting Amazon.

April 2023: Boone and Rivera urged the court not to grant Amazon's motion for an interlocutory appeal of its denied motion to dismiss, telling the court that an appeal would waste time and that the original ruling had no errors.

May 2023: Cristian Barrera, who had brought a separate, similar lawsuit to Boone and Rivera's, had his suit consolidated with theirs.

August 22, 2023: Plaintiffs Heather Boone, Roxanne Rivera and Cristian Barrera and Services LLC told the court that they had reached a tentative settlement.

Amazon’s Arguments

  • The required COVD screenings, for both employees and visitors, aren’t compensable “work” under the Fair Labor Standards Act because they aren’t primarily for Amazon’s benefit, and its benefit is merely incidental.
  • Even if the pre-shift screening are work-related, they are deemed “preliminary” to workers’ principle activities, Amazon argues, like the security screenings the U.S. Supreme Court found not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Although an informal FAQ published by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division states that for certain employees, “a temperature check before they begin work must be paid because it is necessary for their jobs,” screenings aren’t needed for its warehouse associates like they are for for patient-facing health-oriented jobs.
  • Plaintiffs failed to allege that the “screenings themselves take any appreciable amount of time, waiting time is clearly not compensable but the plaintiffs’ 10 to 15 minute estimates collapsed the screening and wait time together".
  • Amazon challenged the plaintiffs’ claims for unpaid wages and overtime under state law.
  • Amazon noted its case is different from one involving Apple, in which a California court found time spent in security screenings compensable under the state’s laws. The Apple security screenings were implemented to prevent theft and were, as a result, primarily intended for the benefit for the employer. As well, the employees weren’t permitted to leave the work until the screenings were complete and were subject to a higher degree of intrusion and control.
  • The plaintiffs’ additional claims related to inaccurate wage statements and payment of wages owed upon discharge fail because, among other things, they are derivative of the other nonviable claims.
The case is Boone et al. v. Amazon Services LLC, case number 1:21-cv-00241, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.


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