Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 18-40150-TSH

Citation404 F.Supp.3d 335
Decision Date20 August 2019
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 18-40150-TSH
Parties Bernard WAITHAKA, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. AMAZON.COM, INC. and Amazon Logistics, Inc., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts

Adelaide H. Pagano, Shannon E. Liss-Riordan, Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C., Boston, MA, for Plaintiff.

Douglas T. Schwarz, Elizabeth M. Bresnahan, Mary Grace Patterson, Noah J. Kaufman, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Boston, MA, Richard G. Rosenblatt, Pro Hac Vice, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Princeton, NJ, Michael E. Kenneally, Pro Hac Vice, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Washington, DC, for Defendants.



Bernard Waithaka ("Plaintiff"), commenced this class action lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc., and Amazon Logistics Inc. ("Defendants") alleging improper classification as independent contractors and violations of state wage laws. Defendants have moved to compel arbitration or, in the alternative, to transfer or stay this litigation. (Docket No. 29) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff is a delivery driver for Defendants and classified as an independent contractor. As a result of that classification, Plaintiff (and other drivers similarly classified) must supply their own vehicles and pay expenses necessary to perform their jobs, such as insurance, gas, phone, and data plan. Consequently, Plaintiff alleges that his hourly wage fell below the minimum required by Massachusetts law.

The parties' agreement contained an arbitration agreement, which reads:


(Docket No. 31-2, at 10) (emphasis in original). In addition, the agreement contained the following choice-of-law provision:

12. Governing Law.
The interpretation of this Agreement is governed by the law of the state of Washington, except for Section 11 of this Agreement, which is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and applicable federal law.

(Docket No. 31-2, at 15).


Written arbitration agreements are governed pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 - 301. See Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams , 532 U.S. 105, 119, 121 S.Ct. 1302, 149 L.Ed.2d 234 (2001) (holding that the FAA extends to employees other than transportation workers in employment cases). The FAA was enacted to combat "longstanding judicial hostility to arbitration agreements and to ‘place such agreements upon the same footing as other contracts.’ " United States ex rel. Hagerty v. Cyberonics, Inc. , 146 F. Supp. 3d 337 (D. Mass. 2015) (quoting Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos., Inc. v. Dobson , 513 U.S. 265, 271, 115 S.Ct. 834, 130 L.Ed.2d 753 (1995) ). When "construing an arbitration clause, courts and arbitrators must ‘give effect to the contractual rights and expectations of the parties.’ " Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int'l Corp. , 559 U.S. 662, 682, 130 S.Ct. 1758, 176 L.Ed.2d 605 (2010) (quoting Volt Information Sciences, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior Univ. , 489 U.S. 468, 479, 109 S.Ct. 1248, 103 L.Ed.2d 488 (1989) ). The FAA institutes "a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements" thus "establish[ing] ... as a matter of federal law, any doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration." Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp. , 460 U.S. 1, 24-25, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983).

1. FAA Transportation Worker Exemption

The FAA contains an exception for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." 9 U.S.C. § 1. Plaintiff contends that his employment as a last-mile delivery driver falls within this exception and consequently that the FAA does not apply.

In Circuit City v. Adams , the Supreme Court, interpreting the exemption, relied on the general principle of statutory interpretation ejusdem generis , which provides that general words following specific words in statutes should be interpreted to be similar in nature to the specific words they follow. 532 U.S. 105, 114-15, 121 S.Ct. 1302, 149 L.Ed.2d 234 (2001). Accordingly, the Court held that "the residual clause should be read to give effect to the terms ‘seamen’ and ‘railroad employees,’ and should itself be controlled and defined by reference to the enumerated categories of workers which are recited just before it." Id. at 115, 121 S.Ct. 1302. Therefore, the question presented is whether reading the residual clause to apply to last-mile delivery drivers gives effect to the enumerated categories of workers in the exception.

Although the Court narrowly interpreted the exemption, it did not provide any further guidance regarding which transportation workers fall within its scope. The First Circuit has not yet had the occasion to address how courts should interpret the residual clause. And "[a]lthough several other circuit courts throughout the country have addressed the topic, little consensus has been realized." Kowalewski v. Samandarov , 590 F. Supp. 2d 477, 484 (S.D.N.Y. 2008). There is one area, however, where a consensus has emerged: truck drivers.1 "[T]hat is, drivers actually involved in the interstate transportation of physical goods ... have been found to be ‘transportation workers’ for purposes of the residuary exemption in Section 1 of the FAA." Id. ; see also Lenz v. Yellow Transp., Inc. , 431 F.3d 348, 351 (8th Cir. 2005) ("Indisputably, if Lenz were a truck driver, he would be considered a transportation worker under § 1 of the FAA."); Palcko v. Airborne Express , 372 F.3d 588, 593-94 (3d Cir. 2004) (assuming that truck drivers fall within the scope of the exemption); Harden v. Roadway Package Sys. , 249 F.3d 1137, 1140 (9th Cir. 2001) ("As a delivery driver ... Harden contracted to deliver packages ‘throughout the United States, with connecting international service.’ Thus, he engaged in interstate commerce that is exempt from the FAA."); Carr v. Transam Trucking, Inc. , 2008 WL 1776435, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 14, 2008) ("Truck drivers, like plaintiff, are considered ‘transportation workers’ within the meaning of this exemption."); Veliz v. Cintas Corp. , 2004 WL 2452851, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 5, 2014) ("The most obvious case where a plaintiff falls under the FAA exemption is where the plaintiff directly transports goods in interstate [commerce], such as [an] interstate truck driver whose primary function is to deliver mailing packages form one state into another.").

Unlike truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce, however, Plaintiff does not carry goods across state lines. Defendants argue that this distinction precludes application of the exemption to last-mile drivers. See Magana v. DoorDash, Inc. , 343 F. Supp. 3d 891, 899 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (concluding exemption did not apply to a plaintiff who did "not allege that he ever crossed state lines as part of his work. As such, there is no allegation that he engaged in interstate commerce under the definition of the narrowly-construed term."). Vargas v. Delivery Outsourcing, LLC , 2016 WL 946112, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 14, 2016) (finding drivers not within the residual exemption because the evidence did "not support the conclusion that Plaintiffs made interstate deliveries even occasionally."); Levin v. Caviar, Inc. , 146 F. Supp. 3d 1146, 1152 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (finding a driver who delivered prepared meals did not fall within the exemption because he did "not shown that he or any other similarly situated delivery driver ever made trips across state lines" and because the defendant did "not identify itself as being engaged in the interstate transport of goods ... nor are the prepared meals Plaintiff delivers a type of good ... that is ‘indisputably’ part of the ‘stream of commerce.’ ").

The cases above, however, are distinguishable from the facts here. The plaintiffs in Magana and Levin , for instance, delivered prepared meals from local restaurants or merchants to local customers. See Magana , 343 F. Supp. 3d at 895 ; Levin , 146 F. Supp. 3d at 1154 ("[I]ngredients contained in the food that Plaintiff ultimately delivered from restaurants ended their interstate journey when they arrived at the restaurant where they were used to prepare meals."). Here, however, the goods do not stop and a restaurant where they are cooked and combined to create a new product. Instead there is a "continuity of movement" of the goods delivered by Amazon interstate until they reach customers. See Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co. , 317 U.S. 564, 568, 63 S.Ct. 332, 87 L.Ed. 460 (1943) ("A temporary pause in their transit does not mean that [goods] are no longer ‘in commerce’ within the meaning of [the Fair Labor Standards Act]. As in the case of an agency if the halt in the movement of the goods is a convenient intermediate step in the process of getting them to their final destinations, they remain ‘in commerce’ until they reach those points. Then there is a practical continuity of movement of the goods until the reach the customers for whom they are intended. That is sufficient. Any other test would allow formalities to conceal the continuous nature of the interstate transit which constitutes commerce.").2 In addition, in Vargas , the plaintiff delivered delayed airline luggage to its owners. The luggage, however, "was not a ‘good’ to be delivered until it was delayed or lost by the airline and then discovered when it was already intrastate. Much like a food delivery service, a luggage delivery service is not engaged in interstate commerce because it is not in the business of shipping goods across state...

To continue reading

Request your trial
20 cases
  • Waithaka v. Amazon.Com, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • July 17, 2020
    ...that was pending. In August 2019, the district court denied in part and granted in part the motion. Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc., 404 F. Supp. 3d 335, 339 (D. Mass. 2019). Specifically, the district court concluded that Waithaka's Agreement was exempt from the FAA, that Massachusetts law th......
  • Bissonnette ex rel. Situated v. Lepage Bakeries Park St., LLC
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 5, 2022
    ..., 17 F.4th 244, 251 (1st Cir. 2021), and are "indispensable parts of [an interstate] distribution system," Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc. , 404 F. Supp. 3d 335, 343 (D. Mass. 2019). These facts also distinguish the plaintiffs from drivers for Grubhub, the food delivery app, whom the Seventh C......
  • Bissonnette v. Lepage Bakeries Park St., LLC
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 5, 2022
    ...interstate journey and are "indispensable parts of [an interstate] distribution system." 49 F.4th 670 Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc. , 404 F. Supp. 3d 335, 343 (D. Mass. 2019). These facts also distinguish the plaintiffs from those "workers whose occupations have nothing to do with interstate......
  • Capriole v. Uber Techs., Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • May 13, 2020
    ...(holding supervisor of drivers of package transportation and delivery company engaged in interstate commerce); Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc. , 404 F. Supp. 3d 335 (D. Mass. 2019) (finding last mile delivery driver engaged in interstate commerce), appeal docketed, No. 19-1848 (1st Cir. Aug 30......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT