‘Joint Employer’ Lawsuit vs Amazon, Trucking Companies Illustrates Reach of Doctrine Pushed by NLRB

CHICAGO –  A class action lawsuit recently filed against Amazon and a trucking operation that works with the online retailer illustrate the reach of the “joint employer” doctrine now being expanded by federal regulators.

 Two former delivery drivers filed a class-action lawsuit against their former trucking company and Amazon on Nov. 1 in Cook County Circuit Court, in a claim of joint employment that touches on a subject of interest to lawmakers.

According to drivers Theron Bradley and Tommy Jenkins, Amazon, the merchant whose cargo they were delivering and who they allege acted as their “joint employer,” did not pay the overtime they said they were owed under the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The two are suing sister companies Silverstar Ltd. and Gold Standard Transportation Inc, as well as Amazon on behalf of themselves and other drivers.

Amazon’s presence in the lawsuit is primarily due to its alleged role as a joint employer. This has become a highly debated topic, amid a push from the National Labor Relations Board to loop more employers under the rubric.

Gauri Punjabi, an attorney with Mintz Levin, sees an expanded reach for labor under the NLRB approach.

“With the NLRB loosening the joint employment rules, more employees are now possibly able to unionize and have the ability to seek greater benefits and negotiate the terms and conditions of employment with a possibly bigger employer,” she said.

Right now, there seems to be focus primarily on the franchise model, as in a pending NLRB action against McDonald’s. Punjabi stated there are a few risks to employers from these kind of actions.