Amazon is accused in a wage-and-hour suit of imposing wrongful barriers to overtime pay for 10,000 New Jersey warehouse workers.
A putative class action in federal court claims that workers’ unpaid lunch breaks and time spent in end-of-shift security checkpoints should count toward the 40-hour weekly threshold they must reach before collecting overtime pay.
The suit, Vaccaro v. Amazon.Com DEDC, was brought under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law on behalf of anyone who has worked in one of the company’s facilities in the state over the past two years.
Class representative Diane Vaccaro works at the Amazon facility in Robbinsville, earning $13.50 per hour as a warehouse worker, according to the suit. At the end of each shift, she and hundreds of others at the facility are required to pass through a metal detector and place personal items on a conveyor belt to be scanned by X-ray. Sometimes workers also undergo a secondary screening by a security guard.
The suit seeks to have workers paid for the time spent in the security lines, and to have that time count toward 40-hour workweek for purposes of overtime pay.
Matthew Miller of Swartz Swidler in Cherry Hill represents the plaintiffs and the putative class.
The suit was filed in Mercer County Superior Court on June 4 and removed to federal court in Trenton on diversity grounds on June 19.
The issue of end-of-shift security screenings of Amazon workers has been litigated before. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the Fair Labor Standards Act did not give workers at two Amazon warehouses in Nevada the right to be compensated for 25-minute end-of-shift anti-theft screenings. In Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, the court found the security checks were exempt from compensation under the Portal to Portal Act.
But New Jersey wage-and-hour law doesn’t have to mirror the Supreme Court’s guidance on the FLSA, Miller contends.
The suit also seeks to have workers’ unpaid lunch periods count toward the 40-hour workweek.
Vaccaro claims she goes off the clock for a half-hour lunch each day, but is unable to leave the facility because she would have to pass through the security line again. And because of the vast size of the facility’s parking lot and its remote location, she is unable leave for personal errands, according to the suit. The suit seeks to have the meal break period count toward the 40 hours as well.
Miller said the New Jersey Department of Labor has held that an employee who can’t leave the work site during lunch break must be paid for that time. He said the same rationale applies to Amazon.
Questions of law and fact that are common to class members, the complaint says, include whether Amazon’s failure to pay Vaccaro and class members overtime wages for time spent in mandatory security screenings violated the Wage and Hour Law; whether Vaccaro and class members were free to engage in their own pursuits during unpaid meal breaks; and whether Amazon’s failure to pay overtime for time spent on meal breaks violated the Wage and Hour Law.
Joseph Nuccio and Richard Rosenblatt of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Princeton represent Amazon. They did not respond to calls about the case.
Amazon did not respond to a reporter’s email about the case.