Friday, April 18, 2014

Area woman sues Amazon over off-the-clock security checks

Suit alleges workers kept waiting up to 20 minutes before being allowed to leave

October 11. 2013 12:13AM

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HAZLE TWP. — A Freeland woman is suing online retail giant, claiming the company failed to pay her and other workers for time spent waiting to clear company-mandated security checkpoints after they had clocked out of work at the company’s distribution center in the Humboldt Industrial Park.

Kelly Pavuk maintains the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act entitles her and other hourly wage-earners at the plant to overtime pay that accrued while they were forced to endure lengthy delays waiting to leave the 630,000-square-foot facility after the end of their daily shifts and while waiting to leave for unpaid 30-minute lunch breaks.

According to her suit, Pavuk worked at the center from March 2012 until approximately October 2012, when she suffered a workplace injury.

But Pavuk has requested that the case, filed Oct. 3 in Luzerne County Court, be treated as a class-action suit on behalf of all employees who worked the local Amazon warehouse as far back as October 2010.

“We could be talking about hundreds of employees or up to a thousand employees,” said Thomas Gilbride Jr., Pavuk’s Scranton-based attorney, adding it is too soon to tell how many people are affected or how much money they may seek to claim.

“Over the course of a year, we could be talking about a lot of personal time,” Gilbride said.

Gilbride said he and Pavuk were not sure how long the security procedures had been in place, but the lawsuit extends back three years because that is the maximum period permitted under law.

Efforts to contact a Philadelphia attorney representing Amazon were not successful Thursday.

Pavuk was a warehouse worker, performing manual tasks related to the storage and shipping of inventory during a 40-hour workweek in which she and hourly employees were required to clock in and clock out for shifts.

The company’s strict theft-prevention regulations require workers to wait in lines for security screening after clocking out but before leaving the warehouse, Pavuk alleges. That process can take between 10 and 20 minutes at minimum — and longer if occasional secondary screening is required at a metal detector, she claims.

Workers are not allowed to leave “until they have successfully proceeded through the entire screening process and have had all bags (and) personal items searched,” the suit says.

Asked whether Pavuk complained to management, Gilbride said she did not, adding that she and other affected workers are not unionized.

“You’re not talking about a minimum-wage job here, and she didn’t want to rock the boat,” Gilbride said.

She’s also not alone in turning to the law.

Recent media reports across the country suggest that other workers have filed suits against the practice at other locations, including Kentucky, Tennessee and Washington, as well as in Breinigsville, Lehigh County, according to The Morning Call of Allentown.

“This is a company that obviously employs a lot of people and that is good for the area,” Gilbride said. “But they need to follow the law, like everyone else.”

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