What just happened? Amazon has defeated an attempt by an employee to bring a class action lawsuit against the company for not paying home office expenses that staff incurred while working from home during the pandemic. But while the tech giant may have won this battle, it hasn’t won the war.
US District Judge Vincent Chhabria in San Francisco said plaintiff David Williams, a California-based Amazon engineer, failed to show the nearly 7,000 employees had enough in common to sue as a group.
The judge added that Williams had not shown sufficient evidence that Amazon had a company-wide policy of not reimbursing employees for expenses such as internet bills and phone calls, and that the company only made reimbursements for “incremental” increases in home internet costs.
Chhabria added that 619 of the 7,000 California workers from the proposed suit were reimbursed an average of $66.49 for home internet expenses. “Not only does this seem more than ‘incremental,’ it appears to be far more than what California law requires,” the judge wrote. Some of the workers were reimbursed in full.
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There was some good news for Williams: his motion for class certification was denied without prejudice, meaning he could file a renewed motion. His lawyer, Craig Ackermann, said they plan to file a new motion that excludes the 619 workers who received reasonable reimbursement.
“We are very pleased and happy to accept the court’s challenge to try again for certification following a bit more discovery,” said Ackermann.
Back in 2021, Williams sued Amazon over claims it was violating California state law by not reimbursing workers who were incurring phone, internet, and electricity costs while working remotely.
Amazon previously tried to have the case dismissed, but this was denied by Chhabria in January. The company argues that it does not owe reimbursements because the stay-at-home orders came from the government and not Amazon.
Williams does have an advantage: his lawyers have filed similar lawsuits against several other companies, including IBM, Online News 72h, and Oracle. Some of these cases have been settled, with the firms agreeing to pay remote workers up to $83 per month to cover home office expenses.
Amazon is trying to cut costs wherever it can these days. In addition to laying off a record 18,000 employees, it is closing eight more Amazon Go stores, abandoning plans for dozens of US warehouses, and pausing construction on its second headquarters in Virginia.