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Lawsuits argue COVID screening time should be paid

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2021 | Employment Law

The pandemic has changed nearly every part of our working lives, including the protocols we must follow to stay safe on the job.

However, many employers ignore the rights of their workers in implementing these protocols. For instance, Amazon is facing a proposed class action claiming it should have been paying workers for time spent waiting to get screened before their shift.

The debate between on-site and on the clock

Thousands of Amazon workers in warehouses across the country have spent hours every week on the job site without compensation. During this time, they wait in long lines to get their temperature checked and pass screening questions designed to identify possible COVID infections.

The online retail behemoth put the standards in place last year requiring workers to come to work early to get screened before they could punch in. On some days, workers spent an hour waiting in line before they could pass through.

Federal and state laws dictate that workers must be paid for all compensable time worked, including time where an employee is required to be on the employer’s premises prior to clocking in.

Unfortunately, this is a common wage violation due to many workers not fully understanding their rights.  Unscrupulous employers frequently take advantage of that fact essentially requiring something for nothing.

Working before clocking in

Determining whether an employee should be paid for work before they clock in can be a complicated matter. 

However, in this case, Amazon argues that the screenings generally benefit the employees. Therefore, the time spent waiting is not compensable. Companies including Walmart have also made this argument.

Considering the ongoing challenges presented by COVID and the workplace, it is likely that workers across Michigan have had or will have these same concerns about unpaid wages. The outcome of these pending lawsuits will undoubtedly be interesting in setting expectations across the country. 

Contact the labor and employment attorneys of Miller Cohen, P.L.C. at 313-566-4787 for a more individualized consultation.