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Amazon Fight Over Work-From-Home Expenses Set to Head to Trial

The lawsuit could cover several thousand people employed by Amazon in California, who ended up footing $50 to $100 a month for home internet and office expenses.

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. workers seeking to recoup expenses incurred while working from home during the pandemic moved a step closer to trial when a California judge rejected the e-commerce giant’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

David Williams, a California-based engineer for Amazon, claims in the proposed class-action lawsuit that the company violated state laws by failing to come up with a policy to compensate employees for remote work-related expenses. The lawsuit could cover several thousand people employed by Amazon in California, who ended up footing $50 to $100 a month for home internet and office expenses. 

The suit is one of several facing companies, including Amazon and Wells Fargo & Co., over expenses incurred while working from home. Amazon had argued it isn’t liable because the expenses stemmed from government orders to shelter-in-place, and not from the company. 

Even if the company’s argument were true, “that does not absolve Amazon of liability,” US District Judge Vince Chhabria said in his order Wednesday. “What matters is whether Williams incurred those expenses ‘in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.’”

A spokesperson for Seattle-based Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling allows Williams’s claims on California labor code violations to move forward. Chhabria granted Amazon’s request to dismiss claims that its conduct violated California’s unfair competition law but gave Williams an opportunity to revise the complaint.  

The case is Williams v. Amazon.com Services LLC et al, 3:22-cv-01892, in the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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