The holiday season is fast approaching. Many companies are preparing for increased demands from holiday shoppers and many people are beginning to look for holiday employment, both full-time and part-time, The Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Amazon plans to hire 70,000 full-time holiday employees. This is a significant increase in seasonal workers over last year’s numbers. More importantly, the article mentions that many of those seasonal employees could become permanent employees. Additionally, Amazon has said that while holiday workers will make slightly less than permanent distribution workers, they will be eligible for health care benefits. This is good news for job seekers, Amazon.com shoppers, and is a good sign for the economy.
Despite all the good news, Amazon and its warehouse employees have been in the news recently for less positive reasons. A number of lawsuits have been filed over wage disputes. The employees that are attempting to sue Amazon want back pay for time spent in security screening lines. Amazon requires warehouse employees to pass through security screenings before breaks and before leaving work to prevent theft. Unfortunately, employees must clock-out before getting into these lines. The wait to get through the some of the security lines can take up to thirty minutes. And these lines get longer with the additional seasonal workers during the busy holiday season. While the courts have not made any rulings on whether or not Amazon is violating its employees’ rights and committing what is known as “wage theft,” employees who understand their rights have brought light to the situation and could change the situation for themselves and future employees.
State and federal laws define and protect employee rights. Unfortunately, these laws are not always followed, sometimes on purpose and sometimes unintentionally. Knowing one’s rights can one of the best ways to protect those rights. Some important employee rights to consider with holiday employment are:
-Employees have the right to payment for all “hours worked.” — These all the hours an employee is required to be at work, although meal breaks are frequently excluded.
-Employees must be paid according to minimum wage requirements. — Washington’s minimum is currently $9.19.
-Most employees working more than 40 hours in a week are entitled to overtime pay, but overtime can be mandatory.
-Employees working more than 4 hours are entitled to short break periods.
-Employees working more than 5 hours must be allowed a 30-minute meal break.
-Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees due to their race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or military status.
-Employers are not allowed to retaliate against employees who make or file legitimate complaints about potential violations of state or federal law.
Employees have many more rights than those listed above, but those are some of the more frequent areas where problems arise. As a general rule, employers try to follow all applicable laws and frequently provide greater rights to their employees. But, if you believe you have suffered from wage theft or your employment rights have been violated, contact a Washington employment law attorney.