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Rittmann v. (9th Cir. 19-35381 8/19/20) Arbitration/FAA Exemption

Amazon Driver and VanThe panel affirmed the district court’s order denying the motion of, Inc., and Amazon Logistics, Inc., to compel arbitration of federal and state wage and hour claims brought by delivery workers.  

One of the named plaintiffs agreed to Amazon’s Terms of Service when he signed up to work as a delivery provider for Amazon’s app-based delivery program Amazon Flex (AmFlex). The Terms of Service included an arbitration provision.  

Agreeing with the First Circuit, the panel held that AmFlex delivery workers were exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act’s enforcement provisions because they were transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce under 9 U.S.C. § 1 when they made “last mile” deliveries of goods in the stream of interstate commerce. Considering the plain meaning of the relevant statutory text, case law interpreting the exemption’s scope and application, and the construction of similar statutory language, the panel held that to be “engaged in interstate commerce,” the AmFlex workers did not themselves need to cross state lines.  

The panel held that the arbitration provision, which included a choice-of-FAA clause, could not be enforced under either federal law or Washington state law.  

Dissenting, Judge Bress wrote that the narrow FAA exemption for certain transportation workers did not apply. In his view, for a delivery worker to be “engaged in” interstate commerce, the worker must belong to a “class of workers” that crosses state lines in the course of making deliveries.