Virginia Court Says Amazon Misclassified Driver and Must Pay Unemployment Taxes on Similar Workers

Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reports that the Virginia Court of Appeals said that an Amazon Flex driver was an employee who was entitled to unemployment benefits and that Amazon was liable for unemployment taxes for similar workers.

The ruling upholds decisions by the Virginia Employment Commission and the Circuit Court

“On appeal, Amazon argues that the commission’s findings were unsupported by the evidence and the law. We disagree,” Judge Dominique Callins wrote in the Court of Appeals decision.

“The evidence supports the commission’s determination that Diggs was an Amazon employee,” Callins wrote. “What is more, the commission’s findings, including its individual control factor determinations, are conclusive and binding on this court.”

In a separate analysis of the opinion, Eric Rumbaugh, a partner at law firm Michael Best, said this case is very fact specific and based on elements of control Amazon exerted over the workers.

“I think it highlights the importance of divesting yourself of control if you want people to be independent contractors,” Rumbaugh said. “Realize that normal types of interactions you have with a vendor are going to look like ‘control’ to taxing bodies because they want your vendors to be employees, and so you should be mindful of that when analyzing your elements of control.”

The Court of Appeals looked at 20 factors to gauge the degree of control Amazon had over Diggs and similarly situated workers. They included:

  • Whether workers must follow a specific sequence when completing tasks.
  • If the work takes place on the company’s premises.
  • Who sets hours worked.

In its ruling, the court found Amazon required drivers to follow specific instructions. It took issue with the company’s arguments that it does not retain Flex drivers on a regular or continuing basis.

“Significantly, Diggs worked solely as a Flex driver for the 10 months that he actively performed services, in an arrangement which, the commission found, was more ‘akin to the temporary employee, hired to meet a specific business need,’” according to the opinion.

See also Va. appeals court upholds finding that Amazon Flex drivers were misclassified as contractors – Virginia Mercury

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