Just over a year ago FedEx settled a class action lawsuit with its delivery drivers for almost $230 million, and now Amazon may be facing a similar fate thanks to an Illinois lawsuit naming it as a joint employer. The lawsuit, Bradley v. Silverstar, et al., is brought by delivery truck drivers claiming that the carriers Silverstar and Gold Standard and online retail giant Amazon are all joint employers of the driver and, therefore, all liable for state and federal overtime pay violations. While the carriers may advertise, recruit the drivers, and even provide trucks, the suit claims that Amazon owned the warehouse, required drivers to wear Amazon uniforms, set schedules, and supervised driver issues, among other management duties. As such, despite not having direct contractual relationships, the suit claims the retailer rose to the level of joint employer.
Amazon does not see itself in this role. In an emailed statement representatives from Amazon stated that, “The small and medium-sized businesses that partner with Amazon logistics have their own employees and are required to abide by applicable laws and Amazon’s Supplier Code of Conduct.” What the plaintiffs see as direct management, according to the e-commerce site’s statement, is Amazon complying with its obligations to investigate whether its partners are adhering to their duties. Amazon faced similar class actions in California last year.
These issues are not limited to large corporations. Small and medium-sized businesses often rely on independent contract agreements or third party vendors to properly allocate potential liability including the gamut of state and federal laws regarding employees’ wages, vacations, and safety. Carefully drafted contracts and implementation of best practices are essential to ensure that all parties understand their responsibilities. No business should be held liable for entities or people it did not know it had the duty to oversee.