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Workers Say Tennis Co. Owes Pay For Virus Safety Checks

By Lauren Berg · 2021-03-16 18:07:32 -0400

A California tennis company hasn't been paying its workers all the wages they're owed, including for time spent undergoing mandatory temperature checks as a precaution during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a proposed collective and class action filed in California federal court.

The Merchant of Tennis Inc., which operates retail tennis stores in the U.S., has been underpaying workers at its facility in San Bernardino, California, the overtime wages to which they're entitled and made the workers undergo temperature checks while they were off the clock, according to the complaint filed on Monday by José Hernandez Solis.

Solis, who worked at the company's San Bernardino facility from April to June, alleges he worked overtime but wasn't paid at the proper overtime rate, according to the suit. For example, in one week, Solis said his regular rate of pay was $13.25 and his overtime rate of pay was $19.75, when it should have been $19.87.

When Solis and his coworkers were required to undergo COVID-19 temperature checks at the beginning of the workday, they did so off-the-clock, and so The Merchant of Tennis failed to pay the workers for their time undergoing monitoring, according to the suit.

The sporting goods company also didn't allow the workers to take all of their breaks, according to the complaint, nor did it pay the workers for their time spent working during their breaks.

Solis is seeking to represent a Fair Labor Standards Act collective action overtime class of all current and former employees nationwide who have worked more than 40 hours in a workweek and who were not paid an overtime rate of 1.5 times their base rate of pay or who underwent COVID-19 temperature checks, during the past three years through the present.

Solis also wants to represent a series of California classes related to the wage and hour claims.

The suit includes claims of failure to pay overtime wages, rest period violations, FLSA violations, minimum wage violations and unfair competition, among other things. It seeks damages, injunctive relief and attorney fees, among other things.

Counsel for Solis did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and contact information for The Merchant of Tennis was not immediately available.

The Merchant of Tennis isn't the only company to face wage-and-hour claims over pandemic safety precautions.

Last month, Walmart Inc. was hit with class allegations in California that it ran afoul of federal and state labor law by failing to pay workers for time spent on mandatory pre-shift COVID-19 screenings.

The current and former workers claim Walmart "implemented an illegal policy requiring its nonexempt workers to undergo a COVID-19 screening each shift without pay. This physical and medical examination constitutes compensable time that was worked by the plaintiffs and class members."

But a Walmart spokesperson told Law360 at the time, "All hourly associates have extra COVID screening time systematically added to their daily shifts and paychecks. This is in addition to our manual process for adding extra time if there ever is a reason this additional time is not sufficient."

And earlier this month, Apple was found to owe a class of California retail store workers for time they spent working off the clock undergoing bag checks.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said he would give Apple an opportunity to argue that the amount of unpaid time was de minimis, or too insignificant to constitute a California labor law violation, but he appeared skeptical of the defense. Damages will be decided in a jury trial.

And back in June, Converse reached a $1.87 million settlement to resolve claims that it failed to pay workers for time they spent clearing post-shift security checks.

Solis is represented by Paul K. Haines and Joseph R. Holmes of Haines Law Group APC.

Counsel information for The Merchant of Tennis was not immediately available.

The case is José Hernandez Solis v. The Merchant of Tennis Inc., case number 5:21-cv-00459, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

--Additional reporting by Jon Steingart, Max Kutner, Dorothy Atkins and Craig Clough. Editing by Nicole Bleier.

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