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Amazon Asks Court To Ax COVID Screening Pay Suit

By Irene Spezzamonte · June 7, 2021, 6:39 PM EDT

Amazon wants a California federal judge to toss a proposed class and collective action alleging that the company did not pay its employees for the COVID-19 screenings they were required to take before their shifts, saying the claims are "meritless" as the screenings were not work-related.

Amazon.com Inc. urged U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd to drop the suit in its entirety, saying that the COVID screenings should not be compensated as they were not a company policy, but rather mandated by the state of California, according to the motion to dismiss filed Thursday in California federal court.

"This lawsuit is a misguided attempt to hold Amazon.com Services LLC liable for actions it took to keep its associates and the community-at-large safe during the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with government-mandated requirements," Amazon said.

The request comes after former Amazon workers Heather Boone and Roxanne Rivera filed a proposed class and collective action lawsuit in February saying the company required them to arrive at work before the beginning of their shifts to undergo COVID screenings for which they were not paid. According to the complaint, this violated both federal and state labor law.

Boone and Rivera said in the complaint that the screenings took 10 to 15 minutes and that the time should have been factored in when calculating their overtime and regular wages because they were prerequisites to performing their jobs.

The screenings would include a temperature check for each employee, as well as a health-related questionnaire to check whether they had any COVID-19 related symptoms.

In their Thursday filing, Amazon called the claims "meritless," adding that the company was following guidance from California and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it introduced the health screenings as "part of a nationwide public health initiative," making them not protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act as compensable work time.

Amazon further said that the time the employees spent waiting to be screened is de minimis, and therefore not compensable.

"Amazon does not exercise the requisite level of control over its associates during the screenings to make that time constitute 'hours worked,'" the company said in the motion.

Boone and Rivera also alleged that Amazon failed to provide them with proper wage statements and did not pay them for all wages after their tenure at the company ended.

Amazon said the claims suffer "from myriad deficiencies."

"Plaintiffs also offer only conclusory allegations about whether Amazon willfully denied them all wages due at the time they were discharged, a necessary prerequisite for recovery," Amazon said. "And all of the disputed payments are clearly the subject of good faith disagreements, which bars assessment of penalties."

One of Boone and Rivera's lawyers, David W. Hodges, of Hodges & Foty, told Law360 Friday that the team is "confident the court will deny the motion to dismiss."

"We believe the law is fairly clear for the issues in this case," he added.

Lawyers representing Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Heather Boone and Roxanne Rivera are represented by David W. Hodges and Don J. Foty of Hodges & Foty LLP and Matthew S. Parmet of Parmet PC.

Amazon.com Inc. is represented by Andrew Kilberg, Jason Craig Schwartz, Katherine V.A. Smith and Bradley Joseph Hamburger of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

The case is Boone et al. v. Amazon Services LLC, case number 1:21-cv-00241 in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California.

--Editing by Peter Rozovsky.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified counsel for Amazon. This error has been corrected. 

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