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Wisconsin Supreme Court backs ruling that Amazon drivers are employees

Robert Besser
31 Mar 2024

MADISON, Wisconsin: This week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling that declared some delivery drivers for Amazon were employees to stand.

The online retail giant argued that the drivers were independent contractors, not employees.

In a unanimous decision, the court said the appeal was "improvidently granted," so the Supreme Court should not have reviewed the case.

The decision to dismiss the case, which was issued after the court heard oral arguments, leaves in place a 2023 Wisconsin appeals court ruling against Amazon in place.

Amazon Flex program drivers are part of the state's unemployment insurance system and entitled to jobless pay if they are laid off, the ruling stated.

Following the ruling, Amazon Logistics, an Amazon subsidiary, will likely be hit with a tax bill of more than $200,000.

In a concurring decision, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said the court dismissed the case as a further review "would not serve any meaningful purpose" or "further development of the law."

In a separate writing, Justice Rebecca Bradley faulted Bradley for attempting to explain the court's decision, stressing that it "will only sow additional confusion."

Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly said the retailer was "disappointed that the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to weigh in and provide much-needed guidance on these matters and are determining our next steps."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will recognize Amazon Flex workers as employees of the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and labor unions.

Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, lauded the court's decision and called it "win for working people."

"Far too often, especially in the emerging gig economy, big and powerful companies like Amazon use the misclassification of employees as independent contractors to deny working people essential workplace rights like minimum wages, overtime pay, and unemployment insurance," she said.

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