Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 19-35381 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Amazon's motion to compel arbitration of one of the named plaintiff's federal and state wage and hour claims. This plaintiff, unlike the other three named plaintiffs, agreed to all of Amazon's Terms of Service (TOS) when he signed up to work as a delivery provider for Amazon's app-based delivery program, Amazon Flex (AmFlex), including the arbitration provision at issue here.
The panel held that AmFlex delivery providers in this case are transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce and are thus exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act's enforcement provisions pursuant to 9 U.S.C. 1 where they made "last mile" deliveries of goods in the stream of interstate commerce. The panel explained that the interstate transactions between Amazon and the customer do not conclude until the packages reach their intended destinations, and thus AmFlex drivers are engaged in the movement of interstate commerce, even if they did not themselves need to cross state lines. The panel noted that cases involving delivery services like Postmates or Doordash are distinguishable, because those cases recognize that local food delivery drivers are not "engaged in the interstate transport of goods" where the prepared meals from local restaurants are not a type of good that are "indisputably part of the stream of commerce." In this case, AmFlex workers complete the delivery of goods that Amazon ships across state lines and for which Amazon hires AmFlex workers to complete the delivery. Therefore, AmFlex workers form a part of the channels of interstate commerce and are engaged in interstate commerce.
The panel also held that the TOS bars application of Washington state law to the arbitration provision. Therefore, there is no valid and enforceable arbitration agreement.
Court Description: Arbitration. The panel affirmed the district court’s order denying the motion of Amazon.com, Inc., and Amazon Logistics, Inc., to compel arbitration of federal and state wage and hour claims brought by delivery workers. One of the named plaintiffs agreed to Amazon’s Terms of Service when he signed up to work as a delivery provider for Amazon’s app-based delivery program Amazon Flex (AmFlex). The Terms of Service included an arbitration provision. Agreeing with the First Circuit, the panel held that AmFlex delivery workers were exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act’s enforcement provisions because they were transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce under 9 U.S.C. § 1 when they made “last mile” deliveries of goods in the stream of interstate commerce. Considering the plain meaning of the relevant statutory text, case law interpreting the exemption’s scope and application, and the RITTMANN V. AMAZON.COM 3 construction of similar statutory language, the panel held that to be “engaged in interstate commerce,” the AmFlex workers did not themselves need to cross state lines. The panel held that the arbitration provision, which included a choice-of-FAA clause, could not be enforced under either federal law or Washington state law. Dissenting, Judge Bress wrote that the narrow FAA exemption for certain transportation workers did not apply. In his view, for a delivery worker to be “engaged in” interstate commerce, the worker must belong to a “class of workers” that crosses state lines in the course of making deliveries. 4 RITTMANN V. AMAZON.COM