Amazon can’t compel arbitration of driver’s spying claims
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(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc must forego individual arbitration and face in court a proposed nationwide class action claiming the e-commerce giant unlawfully monitored and “wiretapped” private Facebook groups used by drivers to discuss working conditions, a California federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge William Hayes in San Diego said on Thursday that an arbitration agreement between Amazon and “last mile” delivery drivers did not cover plaintiff Drickey Jackson’s claims in the 2020 lawsuit because they did not arise from drivers’ performance of services for the company.
Jackson in the lawsuit says Amazon invaded drivers’ privacy and engaged in illegal wiretapping by designating a “social listening team” to monitor and intercept posts to private Facebook groups using automated tools. Jackson’s suit seeks to represent at least 800 drivers around the country.
Seattle-based Amazon and its lawyers at Morgan Lewis & Bockius did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did lawyers at Bursor & Fisher who represent Jackson.
Jackson in the lawsuit cited a leaked document purporting to show an internal social media monitoring list of 43 private Facebook groups run by drivers in different cities.
Amazon used sophisticated digital tools to monitor the groups and gather information about planned strikes and protests, unionizing efforts, pay and benefits and whether drivers had been approached by researchers examining Amazon’s workforce, Jackson says.
He is seeking to represent nationwide and California classes of all drivers for Amazon‘s Flex program who were members of the Facebook groups and whose electronic communications were intercepted by the company.
Amazon has not responded to the allegations in court filings. In its March motion to compel arbitration, the company said Jackson’s claims did not belong in court because the agreement he had signed covered all legal disputes arising out of his work with Amazon.
The agreement applies to “any dispute or claim … arising out of or relating in any way to … your participation in the program, or to your performance of services.”
But Hayes on Thursday agreed with Jackson that drivers’ use of private Facebook groups, and Amazon‘s alleged spying, did not relate to Jackson’s performance of services.
Hayes also rejected Amazon‘s claim that Jackson was bound by a 2019 update to the agreement he had signed three years earlier. The judge said an email Amazon sent to Jackson outlining the updates was not adequate to demonstrate that he had assented to them.
The case is Jackson v. Amazon.com Inc, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 3:20-cv-02365.
For Jackson: Neal Deckant of Bursor & Fisher
For Amazon: Joseph Duffy of Morgan Lewis & Bockius