A U.S. appeals court has upheld a Seattle federal court ruling that “last mile” drivers for Amazon.com Inc. cannot be forced into arbitration based on agreements the drivers signed with the online retail giant.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allows a group of delivery drivers to proceed with a proposed class-action lawsuit in court against Amazon for allegedly withholding their wages.
The delivery drivers are suing Amazon for allegedly misclassifying them as contractors, which deprived them of minimum wages, overtime and other benefits regular employees enjoy. In order to be able to proceed with the class-action suit, the workers are seeking an exemption from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).
The Seattle federal court ruling in April said that drivers who made “last mile” deliveries (basically, the last leg of a package’s delivery) are engaged in interstate commerce and are thus exempt from compulsory arbitration pursuant to the FAA.
By upholding the Seattle judge’s decision, the Ninth Circuit clears a roadblock for the class to proceed with its lawsuit. However, if Amazon tries to appeal the ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court, the class of about 10,000 workers will have to await that outcome before moving ahead with its suit.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has largely bolstered the federal law that governs arbitration, and more than half of employers use such agreements,” Bloomberg Law reported.
The Amazon drivers’ attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, said she hopes that Congress will reverse Supreme Court rulings that upheld arbitration agreements over the last decade, “allowing powerful corporations to shield themselves from class action lawsuits,” according to Bloomberg Law.
Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us at if you’ve been unfairly restricted by an arbitration agreement, or if you have an L&I, workers’ comp, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.