The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to consider whether “final mile” delivery drivers are transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce and exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). In Amazon.com, Inc. vs. Rittmann, (No. 20-622) an Amazon delivery driver, Rittman, filed a putative class-action Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit on behalf of thousands of Amazon delivery drivers. In response, Amazon moved to resolve the dispute via individual arbitration pursuant to the collective action waiver and binding arbitration agreement each driver agreed to prior to working with the company.
The FAA does not apply “to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” According to the Ninth Circuit, the Amazon delivery drivers qualified for the FAA exemption because they completed the final leg of deliveries that cross state borders. As a result, the Court of Appeals held the lawsuit may proceed in court.
In November, Amazon filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. The question presented in the case stated:
Congress extended the Federal Arbitration Act’s strong support for arbitration to the full reach of its powers to regulate foreign and interstate commerce, with a limited exception for “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 9 U.S.C. 1 (emphasis added). Recognizing that Congress included this exemption to preserve specialized arbitration regimes for seamen and railroad employees, the Court has held that the exemption requires “a narrow construction.” Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 118 (2001).
In a divided decision, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Amazon Flex drivers who use their personal vehicles to make local deliveries in a single state are exempt interstate workers because Amazon sells goods that travel in interstate commerce before Flex drivers pick them up for delivery.
The question presented is whether the Federal Arbitration Act’s exemption for classes of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce prevents the Act’s application to local transportation workers who, as a class, are not engaged to transport goods or passengers across state or national boundaries. Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied Amazon’s petition without comment. This has effectively given the drivers a green light to proceed with their class-action lawsuit.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied Amazon’s petition without comment. This has effectively given the drivers a green light to proceed with a class-action lawsuit in court.
In July, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a similar decision, which Amazon has also asked the Supreme Court to review (No. 20-1077). The nation’s high court has not yet decided whether to grant Amazon’s petition, but based on yesterday’s order it will likely be denied. You may read more about that case in another Disputing blog post.
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