Wisconsin Supreme Court affirms that Amazon drivers are employees, not independent contractors

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/27/wisconsin-supreme-court-affirms-that-amazon-drivers-are-employees-not-independent-contractors.html


We really need some stronger labor legislation restricting the definition of independent contractor so these lawsuits don’t keep popping up. The companies usually lose, but they keep trying to do it. Uber drivers, Lyft drivers, Instacart shoppers, Amazon deliver drivers, etc., are not independent contractors. A seasonal temp hire at a factory is not an independent contractor. They really should just limit it to people who are actually licensed, registered contractors, like plumbers, electricians, and so on. Maybe there are a few other exceptions, but those should be explicitly listed instead of giving these companies the freedom to just say, “Oh no, that person isn’t an employee. They’re an independent contractor!”


They really should just limit it to people who are actually licensed, registered contractors

I have this horrible vision of this limit resulting in everyone doing these kinds of jobs now having to go through the hassle of getting some kind of license. And a new set of middlemen with their hands out for money to help “train” you for this “license”.


It needs to be defined as it is with control, because that doesn’t solve the problem. What about the large repair companies? They can do the same shit with their plumbers, etc.

What needs to be done is better enforcement and penalties that HURT repeat offenders. It can’t be “cost of doing business”

That 200,000 dollar fine is going to really change the mindset of Bezos, who makes 8,000,000 per hour.


Their employees typically will not be licensed contractors. They will be working under the license of someone else. I don’t think this is difficult to differentiate.

They already do in most places. In New Jersey, the list of independent businesses that require licensure is very long. For home improvement work, for example, if you are doing anything more than mowing someone’s lawn, you have to be a licensed contractor. You can start a lawn mowing business without being licensed, but as soon as you add “planting flowers” to the tasks you perform, you have to be licensed. This is not a bad thing. Government regulation is not a bad thing.


They already need some kind of license to drive.


True, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that all Amazon Logistics employees in Wisconsin suddenly found themselves jobless and an announcement from Amazon that, we’re really sorry for any inconvenience, but all Amazon deliveries in WI will now be provided by the cheapest USPS/UPS services possible. “Prime Delivery” now = 3-4 weeks.


I think we see the reason in that paltry sum they will have to pay. The company clearly got waaaay more than that amount in benefits to classifying them as independent contractors. Not only didn’t they have to pay employment taxes, they didn’t have to offer health insurance, sick time, etc. Until there are real financial teeth that bite when companies are found in the wrong on this sort of thing, they are just going to keep doing it.

I’ll add that the labor laws are already more than clear enough that these folks should be considered employees. The most basic part is how much the employer controls about schedule (and I’d guess equipment, dress, etc.). There isn’t that much nuance to the fact that Amazon controls the schedule, mandates the uniform, provides the equipment, etc. Probably a big part of why the Wisconsin Supreme Court basically laughed Amazon out of court.


Which can best be accomplished by legislation, not through the courts, which is my point.


Of course that would need legislation. I was not aware that discussion here needed to be limited to what the courts can do on their own.

It doesn’t. Again, that was my point. I guess I’m confused by your saying

in response to my original comment. The reason for what?

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Even that won’t stop it. Criminal penalties for executives are necessary.


The reason these lawsuits (in your words) “keep popping up.”

You were proposing clearer laws distinguishing contractors from employees to achieve that goal.

I was making the case that clearer laws to distinguish one type of worker from another would not be sufficient, and that stiffer penalties for miscategorizing workers would be required to achieve that goal.

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It takes some real nerve to try to pretend that workers exclusively delivering Amazon products while in Amazon vehicles are somehow not employees. That the clearly disingenuous assertion went all the way to the state supreme court shows the kind of nonsense corporations get away with, regularly - this was so egregious, Amazon’s bogus employee classification reasonably would have been shut down before they even dared assert it.


Ok. And how would you get tougher penalties? Through legislation.


Yes. It’s quite right that someone who does hair braiding should have to get a full cosmetology license, and get 1500 hours of training in things that aren’t hair braiding (and the training may not even include anything on braiding hair).

Do I really need a license to dig a couple inches down to plant flowers?

On your own property, no. If you’re doing it for a few friends or family members, also probably no. However if you’re doing it as a business, and you’re listing yourself as a professional, then yes, you really should get a license.

I’m far from a professional landscaper or gardener, but a few potential questions: What are you planting - native or invasive species? Is anything you’re putting in going to damage the foundation? (Yes, there are small “flower sized” plants that can do this.) Are you applying any chemical treatments? (Please don’t.) How are those new plants going change the drainage? And I’m sure there are many other considerations a professional could bring up.


If you are going to do it as a business, yes. Why? Because what happens if you screw it up and damage my property? Also, the things @awfulhorrid brings up, all good points.

And yes, someone who charges money for braiding hair should have a cosmetology license, or whatever license is required in their state for styling hair. Because people tend to get just a little pissed off when someone fucks up their hair when they’ve paid them to style it, and they want some reassurance that the person is qualified to do the job, and some mechanism to file a complaint if they don’t do it right, and that’s what state licensure provides for.


Shit! I thought that’s what online reviews were for! /s


Well-regulated markets are much better for consumers and society than so-called ‘free’ markets.