Amazon May Have Beat the Class Action, but Still Has to Deal with Joint Employer Issue

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In recent news, Amazon ended up beating the class action because the proposed driver class didn’t have enough in common, but the individual wage, overtime and meal break claims survived. Class claims were dropped in the delivery driver lawsuit that sought wages, overtime and relief for a number of different alleged labor violations. But the question of whether or not Amazon and other big businesses could be exposed to significant liability remains.

On December 6th, a federal judge found that California Amazon drivers could not seek class status because proposed class members (including current and former employees of Amazon and a number of staffing businesses subject to Amazon delivery guidelines) didn’t have enough in common. The federal judge on the case, Judge Maxine M. Chesney, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District, did leave room to for a potential finding that Amazon is a joint employer alongside 1-800-Courier. If the curt were to come back with a joint employment finding, it would mean that both Amazon and the courier company were Jasmine Miller’s (the plaintiff) formal employers. This precedent would leave major businesses regularly depending on contracted or subcontracted labor in California facing significant implications.

The judge stated that Miller’s working conditions (as an alleged joint employee of Amazon and 1-800-Courier) may not match the working conditions of other drivers at Amazon contractors who are also allegedly jointly employed. This resulted in a failure of the test for class action status requiring that all putative class members face essentially the same experiences and conditions.

Miller is moving forward with claims that she was not paid minimum wage, overtime wages, provided required meal breaks and rest periods, and accurate wage statements. Miller has until January 4th, 2019 to amend her class complaint per Judge Chesney. The judge added that the joint employment will likely hinge on an assessment of how much control Amazon has over the working terms and conditions of employees at the courier company (or other similar companies providing Amazon with workers).

If you have questions about California employment law or if you need to discuss overtime violations, or wage and hour violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Young California Startup Logging its 3rd Class Action Lawsuit

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A San Francisco, California startup in its early years is logging its third lawsuit. The shopping service, particularly popular with busy, urban professionals, has been repeatedly vilified by some of its own service workers. The company is planning to finalize a $4.6 million settlement in January 2018 to resolve the issues. The California class action overtime lawsuit was filed by employees and independent contractors of Maplebear Inc. (dba Instacart). 

The proposed settlement will resolve issues for which plaintiffs seek resolution including angst over numerous allegations. 

Allegations Made by Plaintiffs Against Maplebear, Inc. (dba Instacart):

  • Service Fee Assumed by Consumers to be a Built-In Tip for Drivers
  • Workers Collecting Earnings Translating to as Low as $1 Per Hour

Many users of the Instacart service assumed the service fee automatically added to their orders was a built-in tip for drivers, but it wasn’t. Some Instacart workers collected earnings that, after all was said and done, translated to a measly $1/hour. An amount that falls far short of legal minimum wage requirements per laws recognized by the State of California, as well as potential violations of federal overtime laws. 

Instacart was started by Apoorva Mehta, a Canadian and alma mater of the University of Waterloo who spent years working for tech companies such as Blackberry, Qualcomm and before deciding to move on and try his luck at start ups. Instacart was his 21st startup idea. It was aimed at busy, tech-savvy professionals that would benefit from an on-demand grocery shopping platform. The idea quickly gained traction. Orders were placed through the app in a similar fashion to order a car on Uber or Lyft. Instacart had both employees and independent contractors working as “shoppers” who filled orders and delivered them to customers. 

In 2015, Instacart was hit by a class action lawsuit due to misclassification of workers. Eventually, Instacart converted its workforce making most of their shoppers part-time employees with a small number qualifying for benefits. As of today, the startup has 300 full-time employees and tens of thousands of part-time shoppers. 

The company was hit by another class action in 2016, Husting et al. v. Maplebear, Inc. d/b/a Instacart. 

In February of 2017, the company faced another class action lawsuit due to alleged wage and hour violations. 

If you have questions about how to file a class action lawsuit or if you aren’t sure if you qualify for class certification, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.