More than 15,750 Arbitration Claims Filed Against Amazon Alleging Drivers Were Misclassified as Independent Contractors

Cohen Milstein announced that more than 15,750 Amazon Flex drivers filed claims for arbitrtion alleging that they were misclassified as independent contractors.

Lawyers continue to sign up other misclassified drivers to participate in arbitration. 

San Francisco, CA – Today, more than 15,750 Amazon Flex drivers in California, Illinois and Massachusetts deluged Amazon, the e-commerce and delivery giant, with individual wage and hour arbitration actions, alleging that Amazon misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees. Approximately 450 such claims are already on file with the American Arbitration Association, bringing the total driver claims to well over 16,000. The drivers are seeking compensation for unpaid wages, overtime, and reimbursement for eligible expenses, such as mileage and cell phone usage.  (Amazon Flex drivers seeking information about the cases can find out more at Amazon Flex Driver Lawsuits and Arbitrations.)

Launched in 2015, Amazon Flex is a cornerstone of Amazon’s national delivery operation, which, according to the Wall Street Journal is now the largest U.S. package delivery company, outpacing rivals FedEx and UPS.  Since the inception of Amazon Flex, more than 2.9 million drivers in the U.S. have downloaded the Amazon Flex app. onto their phone. A hallmark of Amazon delivery service is to offer Amazon Prime and other customers premium “last-mile” deliveries from Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired in 2017, and Amazon warehouse hubs to customers’ doorsteps. However, unlike its main delivery rivals, Amazon classifies the Flex drivers as independent contractors, not employees, requiring the drivers to bear all expenses of their work and engage in work that is uncompensated.

The drivers claim that the laws prevailing in California, Illinois, and Massachusetts require that the Amazon Flex drivers should be classified and compensated as employees.

“As Amazon exerts considerable control over the Flex Drivers in their deliveries and the deliveries are part of Amazon’s usual business, the drivers qualify as Amazon employees, not independent contractors, and should be paid accordingly,” said Joseph Sellers, partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and attorney for the drivers. “That Amazon fails to pay these Flex Drivers wages and reimburse expenses that the law requires is inexcusable, exploiting some of the most vulnerable workers in our society.   By doing so, Amazon gains a competitive advantage in pricing these delivery services that has contributed to its success as the leading package delivery company in the country.”

Advertising the Flex program as a way for drivers to earn extra money, Amazon pays Amazon Flex drivers for only a pre-set number of scheduled hours in a delivery shift (or “block”), regardless of how long it takes to complete their delivery route. That means if a driver books a 3-hour shift where they might receive dozens of delivery requests that could take 4+ hours to complete, Amazon will pay them for only 3 hours.

“I came to the United States from Iran for a better life. Amazon Flex promised good money and flexible hours,” said Saman Khodaei, a driver who drove for Amazon Flex in Los Angeles and successfully arbitrated his misclassification claim. “Instead, it’s a fulltime job. Some days, I worked more than 8 hours because I had to wait in line to pick up my packages before I could start my deliveries. And then I had to check in and wait in line again for my next block of deliveries. It’s so competitive, I barely had time to eat or take a break. It should be simple: Amazon should pay drivers for their time to wait, load, check in. It’s all a part of the delivery.”

Amazon, which has a history of misclassifying workers as independent contractors, also requires drivers to arbitrate disputes with the American Arbitration Association. More than 65% of employers in the U.S. mandate such agreements. Unlike court, arbitration proceedings are private and often confidential, which often prevent systemic issues like Amazon’s employee misclassification issues from becoming public. Such agreements, like Amazon’s, forbid class arbitration and require individuals to file claims individually.

“Arbitration, unfortunately, limits the drivers’ pursuit of justice. So, we’re left with little choice but to file almost 16,000 individual arbitration actions at once,” said Steven Tindall of Gibbs Law Group. “Amazon required Flex drivers to agree to bring these cases in private proceedings—likely in an effort to keep its business practices from being exposed to public and shareholder scrutiny.”

Thus far, Amazon Flex drivers have successfully tried seven bellwether arbitration trials, addressing the same misclassification claims. Each driver has been awarded, on average, $9,000 in damages.

“It’s about time that Amazon is exposed for misclassifying employees,” said Norva Williams, another driver who successfully litigated her claim through Amazon’s arbitration process. “I was excited to work for Amazon, but it quickly became clear to me that it was a racket. I was the one who ended up paying. My hope is that Amazon will be forced to reconcile how it classifies employees and how employees can seek justice.”

The Amazon Flex drivers are represented by Joseph Sellers, Brian Corman, Rebecca Ojserkis, and Megan Reif of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Steven Tindall, Ashleigh Musser, Jane Farrell, and Brian Bailey of Gibbs Law Group. The more than 16,000 total claims will be litigated before the American Arbitration Association.

Source: Amazon Flex Drivers File Wage & Hour Actions – Cohen Milstein

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