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Rittmann v. Amazon.Com Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 6, 2017

BERNADEAN RITTMANN, FREDDIE CARROLL, JULIA WEHMEYER, and RAEF LAWSON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for notice to be issued (Dkt. No. 20), and Defendants' motion to dismiss or compel arbitration (Dkt. No. 36). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion to dismiss and STAYS the motion to issue notice for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs in this case are individuals who work or have worked as delivery drivers for Defendants, Inc. or Amazon Logistics, Inc. (“Amazon”) who have contracted directly with Amazon and have been classified by Amazon as independent contractors. (Dkt. No. 33 at 1.) The drivers set their weekly availability online and then either sign up for, or are assigned, shifts in two or four-hour increments. (Dkt. No. 20 at 2.) Drivers are required to provide their own vehicle and smart phone on which to run Amazon's application when making deliveries. (Id.) Plaintiffs maintain that drivers are “responsible for the cost of their own equipment, as well as expenses incurred in performing their delivery work.” (Id.) At the heart of Plaintiffs' complaint is their allegation that Amazon has misclassified these delivery drivers as independent contractors, when they are actually employees. (Dkt. No. 33 at 5.) Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(b) and 207(a)(1), the Washington Minimum Wage Act, Revised Code of Washington §§ 49.46.020 and .130, §§ 49.52.50 and .70, the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, Council Bill 118585, and California Labor Code §§ 2802 and 226(a). (Id. at 11-13.)

         Plaintiffs now move this Court for an order to issue notice to similarly situated employees. (Dkt. No. 20.) Amazon moves to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' claims for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 36 at 15-19.) Amazon also moves to dismiss the FLSA and California Law claims under the “first-to-file” rule. (Id. at 19.) Finally, Amazon requests the Court compel arbitration of those putative class members who agreed to arbitrate. (Id. at 24-25.)


         A. Failure to state a claim

         A defendant may move for dismissal when a plaintiff “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To grant a motion to dismiss, the Court must be able to conclude that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, even after accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). However, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must cite facts supporting a “plausible” cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A claim has “facial plausibility” when the party seeking relief “pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009) (internal quotations omitted). Although the Court must accept as true a complaint's well-pleaded facts, “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will not defeat an otherwise proper motion to dismiss.” Vasquez v. L.A. County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Amazon argues that Plaintiffs allege insufficient facts for all claims. (Dkt. No. 36 at 16- 19.) The pleading standard here is guided by Landers v. Quality Communications Inc., 771 F.3d 638 (9th Cir. 2014). In Landers, the court held that in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff asserting a wage or overtime claim must allege that she worked over 40 hours and was not paid overtime, or was not paid minimum wage for a given workweek. Id. at 645-46. While the court acknowledged that “most (if not all) of the detailed info concerning a plaintiff-employee's compensation and schedule is in the control of the defendants” and plaintiffs need not allege the amount of compensation owed “with mathematical precision, ” it nonetheless held that plaintiffs “should be able to allege facts demonstrating there was at least one workweek in which they worked in excess of forty hours and were not paid overtime wages.” Id. (internal quotations omitted).

         Here, Plaintiffs make the following allegations to support their minimum wage claims:

• In light of the expenses the delivery drivers bear in order to perform their jobs, the drivers' hourly wages often fall below the federal minimum wage . . . [and] state minimum wage. (Dkt. No. 33 at 6, ¶ 24.)
• [W]hen driving for Amazon, delivery drivers receive an hourly rate of pay for scheduled shifts. However, it often takes the drivers more time to complete their deliveries than their scheduled shifts, but drivers do not receive additional compensation for this extra time. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

         To support their overtime claims, Plaintiffs allege:

• [D]elivery drivers are not paid overtime for hours they work in excess of 40 hours per week. For example, Plaintiff Freddie Carrol regularly worked in excess of 40 hours per week for Amazon from the period January through June of 2016 but was not been paid [sic] one-and-a-half ...

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