Technology

Amazon faces lawsuit over missed lunch breaks

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A lawsuit that claims one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers in California failed to provide required meal breaks for employees has moved to federal court, as attorneys seek class-action status. First filed in San Francisco County Superior Court in February, the case was removed to US District Court California, Northern District on Friday.

Lovenia Scott, a former employee of the Vacaville, California warehouse, alleges that the company didn’t schedule the required 30-minute meal breaks for workers. When they did get their meal breaks, workers were expected to monitor their walkie-talkies in case of any problems on the floor, which sometimes cut into their break time, the suit claims.

The matter of paying workers for time they spend waiting for employers while off the clock has come up in other cases as well. The Supreme Court decided in 2014 that Amazon workers at a Nevada warehouse weren’t entitled to pay for the time they spent waiting to have their bags searched after clocking out but before leaving the building.

Earlier this month in a separate case, Amazon and an independent contractor it worked with in California were fined $6.4 million for wage theft by the California Labor Commission’s Office. The state investigation in that case found that Green Messengers, the subcontractor for Amazon, underpaid drivers, scheduling them 10-hour days but with a workload that forced drivers to skip meal and rest breaks.

Due to the way the meal breaks were organized in Vacaville, Scott claims, many workers took their breaks at the same time. Lines would form at the computer system where employees swiped their badges to clock out for their break time, meaning those at the end of the line saw their breaks shortened as they waited their turn. Scott’s lawsuit also says shifts were “chronically understaffed,” which left some employees unable to take short 10-minute rest breaks in order to finish their work on time.

In addition, workers were not compensated for using their personal cell phones to perform work tasks, the lawsuit claims. Scott, who worked at the Vacaville warehouse from October 2016 to January 2019, also says Amazon failed to timely pay her final wages.

Amazon has been bickering with US senators on Twitter the past few days via its @AmazonNews account, questioning— among other things— the accuracy of reports that some of its delivery drivers are so overworked that they had to pee in bottles because they didn’t have time to take restroom breaks. Numerous news reports support this claim, however. And Monday is the deadline for workers at Amazon’s plant in Bessemer, Alabama to vote whether to form the first-ever Amazon union in the US.

Amazon did not reply to a request for comment Saturday.


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