Home Featured Ontario court stays one action, dismisses another in proposed class action against Amazon over classification of workers

Ontario court stays one action, dismisses another in proposed class action against Amazon over classification of workers

by HR Law Canada

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has issued a ruling in a proposed class action lawsuit brought by DD against Amazon, concerning the classification and employment status of approximately 73,000 delivery workers across Canada.

DD is seeking general damages of $200 million and an additional $50 million for aggravated, exemplary, and punitive damages on behalf of the workers.

Two-branch theory against Amazon

DD’s case is divided into two distinct actions. In the first action, Amazon is sued as an “employer” for around 16,000 Delivery Partners (DPs) who have a direct contractual relationship with the company for parcel delivery.

DD alleges that these workers, based in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, have been wrongly classified as independent contractors, allowing Amazon to circumvent employment laws.

In the second action, Amazon is accused of being a “common employer” of about 57,000 Delivery Associates (DAs) who work for Delivery Service Partners (DSPs). These DSPs are third-party logistics companies that contract with Amazon.

DD, a former DA himself, argues that Amazon outsourced these jobs to avoid employment law obligations. He contends that Amazon should be held jointly and severally liable for the 126 DSPs’ failure to comply with employment laws across six provinces in Canada.

Amazon’s counter arguments

In response to DD’s claims, Amazon presented a two-pronged defense strategy. First, the tech giant pushed for arbitration clauses to be honored for 16,000 DPs and at least 21,000 DAs who had such provisions in their work contracts.

Second, Amazon argued that none of the certification criteria were satisfied and therefore the certification motion should be dismissed.

Court’s decision

The court agreed to stay the action against Amazon for the DAs who had signed arbitration agreements. Had it not done so, it would have conditionally certified the action as a class action for the DPs, pending the appointment of a representative plaintiff and amendment of the class definition.

However, the court would not have certified aggregate or punitive damages as common issues, and claims for breach of a duty of good faith, unjust enrichment, or negligence would also not have been certified.

Furthermore, the court decided to dismiss the action against Amazon as a common employer, stating that the cause of action, common issues, and preferable procedure criteria were not met.

For more information, see Davis v. Amazon Canada Fulfillment Services, ULC, 2023 ONSC 3665 (CanLII)

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