Amazon Again Faces Joint Employer Liability

Over a year ago, we discussed the settlement that occurred between a class of warehouse workers in California and two joint employers, SMX LLC and LLC (“Amazon”). Last November, Amazon was notified of another joint-employer suit, along with Silverstar Ltd. (“Silverstar”) and Gold Standard Transportation Inc. (“Gold Standard”).

Drivers, represented by Theron Bradley (“Bradley”) and Tommy Jenkins (“Jenkins”), provided delivery services to customers in Illinois who purchased products from Amazon, but were not paid overtime, which violates the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (“IMWL”). Bradley and Jenkins claimed Silverstar and Gold Standard are joint employers because they shared a human resource department, had common management, and shared office space. They also claimed Amazon was a joint employer because (a) drivers were trained by Amazon personnel shortly after being hired, (b) were required to report to an Amazon-operated warehouse every morning, (c) received instructions from Amazon personnel, (d) wore Amazon uniforms, (e) drove vans with Amazon’s logo, and (f) were subject to Amazon’s evaluation and disciplinary policies and procedures.

On January 25, 2017, Bradley and Jenkins clarified the proposed class definitions in an amended complaint. The new class definition separated drivers who worked for Silverstar and Gold Standard, but not Amazon, from a separate subclass of drivers who worked for all three entities.

This case is in keeping with the larger trend of joint employer litigation that followed the result in NLRB v. Browning-Ferris Industries of Cal., et al., No. 32-RC-109684, 2015 WL 5047768 (N.L.R.B. Aug. 27, 2015), where the National Labor Relations Board loosened its joint employer liability test, along with the Department of Labor’s January 2016 guidelines, which encouraged closer examinations of multi-company arrangements that jointly employ workers.

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Campbell, Braden. “Amazon Drivers Clarify Classes In FLSA Class Suit,” Law360. Last modified on January 25, 2017.

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