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Amazon Defends Failure to Pay Workers for Covid Screening Time

June 4, 2021, 8:48 PM

Amazon.com Services LLC has no obligation to pay fulfillment center workers for time spent undergoing mandatory Covid-19 screenings, which benefits the public in general, the company says in a motion to dismiss a would-be class action filed in the Eastern District of California.

The required screenings, conducted in accordance with government regulations and guidance—not just for employees but for all visitors—aren’t compensable “work” under the Fair Labor Standards Act because they aren’t primarily for Amazon’s benefit, the Thursday motion says. According to Amazon, the screenings benefit everyone, and its benefit is merely incidental.

Even if considered work-related, the pre-shift health screenings are “preliminary” to their principle activities, Amazon argues, likening them to the security screenings the U.S. Supreme Court found not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act in Integrity Staffing Sols. Inc. v. Busk.

Amazon acknowledges 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.”

But according to Amazon, although the screenings may be necessary for patient-facing health-oriented jobs, it isn’t needed for its warehouse associates, and the guidance isn’t entitled to a high-degree of deference in any event.

The plaintiffs also fail to allege that the “screenings themselves take any appreciable amount of time,” Amazon says. Waiting time is clearly not compensable, the company says, but the plaintiffs’ 10 to 15 minute estimates collapsed the screening and wait time together.

Amazon advances similar arguments to challenge the plaintiffs’ claims for unpaid wages and overtime under state law.

Amazon distinguishes Frlekin v. Apple Inc., where a California court found time spent in security screenings compensable under the state’s laws.

First, the security screenings were implemented to prevent theft and were, as a result, primarily intended for the benefit for the employer, Amazon says. And second, 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, it adds.

Amazon says 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 non-viable claims.

The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Amazon is represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Plaintiffs are represented by Hodges & Foty LLP and Parmet PC.

The case is Boone v. Amazon.com Services LLC, E.D. Cal., No. 1:21-cv-00241, motion to dismiss 6/3/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Barker in Washington at hbarker@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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