For Amazon, the hits just keep coming: The company is besieged by claims from employees that they’re overworked and forced to endure physically dangerous conditions nearly every day.
Now, a former employee in one of the company’s California warehouses is alleging that Amazon also participates in wage theft. The case may soon achieve class action status, meaning that it would be open to any employee or former employee who asserts similar claims.
How do missing breaks equal wage theft?
Meal and rest breaks are mandated in numerous states and jurisdictions for many employees, regardless of their work obligations. Depending on the situation, those breaks may or may not be unpaid — but employees are legally entitled to them either way.
According to the plaintiff in a recent case, Amazon deducted the time employees were supposed to be on meal breaks and rest breaks from their pay without ever actually letting them take those breaks. Some of the problems included:
- Meal breaks were not scheduled as part of shifts. There was no formal written meal or rest break policy that employees could rely on or use for their edification
- Employees were sometimes docked time standing in line to clock in and out. Those considerable (10-15) minutes were considered part of their break.
- Some employees had to carry walkie-talkies on breaks. They were required to monitor and respond to communications through them during their reported time away from duties.
Essentially, the plaintiff and others were told to take a break if “they could,” but chronic understaffing and the volume of work made that practically impossible.
Wage theft is a reprehensible practice, and it often affects most the wallets of the most poorly paid employees. The only way to stop that kind of behavior by companies big or small is to make it too expensive for the practice to continue.