Delivery Driver Claims Amazon and Trucking Company Owe Wages as Joint Employers

A delivery driver of Amazon products has sued both the trucking company where he worked and Amazon for failing to pay him minimum wage and overtime.  In Wu v., Inc., Plaintiff John Wu’s complaint alleges that Amazon and the trucking company, Speed of Sound Courier Express, Inc., were acting as “joint employers” in their violation of applicable wage and hour law.
The complaint asserts that every morning, Wu and other similarly situated individuals reported to a warehouse where they received Amazon packages, equipment and delivery schedules from Amazon personnel.  Drivers were expected to wear Amazon uniform shirts and carry GPS devices that Amazon could access to track their performance.  According to Wu, Amazon and Speed of Sound Courier Express, Inc. shared supervisory and disciplinary authority over drivers.  Drivers were paid a daily flat rate regardless of the number of hours worked, and accurate time records were not kept.  As such, Wu and similarly situated employees were not paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.  These actions, alleged Wu, constituted willful violations of wage and hour law that entitled him and other similarly situated workers to relief.
In filing suit, the plaintiff highlights a growing trend toward identifying multiple entities as “joint employers” in employment litigation.  Described by former DOL Wage and Hour Administrator Dr. David Weil as being a consequence of the “fissured workplace,” Dr. Weil has explained that where businesses outsource non-core functions to outside entities, such corporate restructuring is similar to fissuring in geology where small cracks deepen and expand over time to include activities that may be more central to a business.  A consequence of this outsourcing activity is an uptick in legal claims brought on a “joint employment” theory.  Employers who elect to outsource activities should therefore be careful about the degree of control that they retain over those activities.  The more control that is retained, the more likely that an organization could be named a “joint employer” and held liable as such under applicable law.