An employee’s lawsuit against Amazon over work-from-home expenses loses class action presentation

What just happened? Amazon has defeated an attempt by an employee to file a class action lawsuit against the company for non-payment of home office expenses incurred by employees working from home during the pandemic. But while giant tech may have won this battle, it hasn’t won the war.

U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria in San Francisco said the plaintiff, David Williams, an Amazon engineer in California, failed to show nearly 7,000 employees had enough in common to file a class action suit.

The judge added that Williams did not show enough 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 reimbursed “increased” increases in home Internet costs.

Chhabria added that 619 of the 7,000 California workers from the proposed lawsuit were compensated an average of $66.49 for home internet expenses. “Not only does this appear to be more than ‘incremental,’ it appears to be much more than California law requires,” the judge wrote. Some workers have been fully compensated.

Does your employer pay you home office expenses?

There was some good news for Williams: His application for a class certificate was denied without prejudice, which means he can reapply. His attorney, Craig Ackerman, said they plan to file a new application that will disqualify 619 workers who received reasonable compensation.

“We are very pleased and happy to accept the court’s challenge to try again for testimony after more is discovered,” Ackerman said.

In 2021, Williams sued Amazon over allegations that it was violating California law by not compensating workers who were incurring phone, internet, and electricity costs while working remotely.

Amazon previously tried to dismiss the case, but Chhabria denied it in January. The company argues that it does not owe the payment because the stay-at-home orders came from the government, not Amazon.

Williams has an advantage: His lawyers have filed similar lawsuits against several other companies, including IBM, Fox, and Oracle. Some of those cases have been settled, with companies agreeing to pay remote workers up to $83 per month for home office expenses.

Amazon is trying to cut costs wherever it can these days. In addition to laying off 18,000 employees, it is closing eight more Amazon Go stores, dropping plans for a dozen US warehouses, and pausing construction on its second headquarters in Virginia.

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