Distribution Center Employees: You Have Rights!

Written by Sattiraju Law Firm on July 26, 2019

Distribution centers are some of the hardest jobs to work. A story published in the Huffington Post identified some of the challenges—warehouses the size of 18 football fields which require pickers to be on their feet for the entire day, often without any company. Some workers end up collapsing because of the strenuous nature of the job.

Fortunately, distribution center employees have rights just like everybody else. If you are being denied breaks or benefits, or have suffered discrimination, you can bring a claim for compensation. Contact Sattiraju Law today.

Work Breaks

The laws around work breaks are complicated. There is a set of federal laws, but each state is allowed to add their own rules and regulations, so long as they provide greater protection to workers. Some states, like New Jersey, have not created more worker-friendly laws, so the federal law controls.
Federal law does not require that an employer offer meal or rest breaks (for any worker 18 or older). However, the law does require that workers be paid for all hours worked. So if an employer offers rest or meal breaks, they must follow certain rules:

  • Federal law requires that an employer pay an employee for non-meal rest periods (which typically last 20 minutes or less).
  • An employer does not need to pay for a bona fide meal break (lasting at least 30 minutes) so long as the employee is free to do what they want during the break.

We have seen some employers violate these rules. They might require work during the meal period or flat out refuse to pay for a break time. A work break should also count toward overtime hours.

Proper Classification

Many distribution centers hire seasonal workers for periods of heavy activity. They might classify a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee. This classification makes a big difference:

  • Independent contractors are responsible for paying all of their FICA tax. When someone is an employee, the employer pays 50% of it.
  • Independent contractors have no rights to overtime, regardless of how much they work.
  • Independent contractors do not qualify for unemployment insurance in most situations.
  • Independent contractors might incur greater expenses for their jobs.
  • There are different legal tests used to determine whether you are truly an employee or independent contractor. An agreement that identifies you as an independent contractor can serve as some evidence, but it alone does not decide the issue.

Harassment or Discrimination

Federal and state laws protect workers from discrimination on the basis of certain protected characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, color, sex, disability, age, genetic information, and religion. This protection extends to all terms of employment, such as wages, benefits, advancement, termination, and other opportunities.

Workplace harassment based on a protected characteristic is also prohibited. So if a boss, coworkers, or even customers harass you based on your race, sex, age, etc., you often can sue.

Contact an NJ Distribution Center Employment Lawyer Today

Working in a distribution center is hard enough as it is, but you should also receive all rights you are entitled to under the law. If you suspect someone has violated your rights, talk to a lawyer at Sattiraju Law today.

Posted Under: New Jersey Employment Law
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