Connecticut Amazon Warehouse Workers Score Partial Victory in Screening Time Pay Class Action

An opinion from Judge Kari A. Dooley of the District of Connecticut found mostly in favor of three Amazon warehouse workers claiming that the Amazon entities that formerly employed them shorted their pay. In particular, the court greenlighted the plaintiffs’ failure to pay “straight time wages” claim pertaining to uncompensated time spent waiting for and undergoing mandatory post-work security screening.

The court explained that the three plaintiffs worked in Amazon warehouses in Connecticut and were required to complete a security screening process prior to leaving the facilities at the end of their shift or before a meal break. As part of this process, Amazon required the plaintiffs to wait in lines leading up to a security screening area and to proceed through a metal detector, with possible secondary screening. All bags were individually searched, too. 

The entire screen process routinely took between 10 and 20 minutes. Further, the plaintiffs aver that Amazon’s mandatory security screening process resulted in an automatic 30-minute deduction from their unpaid meal break.

Judge Dooley concluded that the plaintiffs stated a claim for unpaid wages based on breach of the agreement to pay warehouse workers hourly compensation. “Defendants’ narrow focus on the failure to allege an agreement to compensate Plaintiffs for the time spent complying with the mandatory security screenings misses the point. Plaintiffs allege that insofar as the process was mandatory, it falls within the agreement to pay Plaintiffs their hourly wage for however long the process took,” the court explained.

As to one of the three plaintiffs, Amazon alleged that he signed an agreement waiving his rights because of a settlement reached in his previous suit for disability discrimination. Yet, the court elected not to dismiss the claim based on the contested factual record. Instead of weighing “extraneous documents and affidavits,” the court kept its decision to the four corners of the complaint, thus not “converting the motion to one for summary judgment.”

Judge Dooley also addressed the plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend their complete. Siding with Amazon, the court said the plaintiffs offered no “sound reason for the delay in asserting this expanded wage claim and to allow the amendment would be unduly prejudicial to Defendants.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore LLC and Amazon by Littler Mendelson P.C.

Notably, a similar suit brought by California Apple store employees in 2015 settled in August after a trip to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruled in favor of the employees after the state’s highest tribunal adjudged obligatory security screening compensable time.