Got a bit of a weird story for you today, one that hopefully reminds those of you among us who are bemoaning the unacceptable working conditions you wake up for six days a week that it could always be worse.
A California man has filed a wage and hour lawsuit against Amazon after he says he was misclassified as a manager and therefore deprived of overtime and other perks extended to the regular grunt employees like lunch breaks. He contends that what he thought the job would entail and what it actually ended up being were two wildly different things, kind of like when you order a lovely dress on Wish and end up getting a strip of Saran wrap and two buttons in a bag.
According to Lawyersandsettlements.com, Michael Ortiz graduated from UC Berkeley and “had taken his CPA exam when he went to work for Amazon.” When he was hired as a Level 4 Manager, he believed he would apply his encyclopedic knowledge of business and accounting to the position however he alleges he quickly found himself engaged in the same backbreaking work as hourly associates.
He claims the bulk of his work time was spent doing the following:
- loading and offloading trucks;
- staging and moving pallets;
- cutting open boxes;
- staging conveyance systems and computers;
- unloading, receiving, sorting and scanning packages including hazardous packages; and
- various cleaning tasks.
Under California law, an exempt employee must spend more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt duties. You know, manager stuff. Job titles do not factor into the state’s determination of an exempt employee, meaning a “Manager” who performs the same tasks as nonexempt employees for at least 50 percent of their time would not be exempt.
On top of that, exempt employees must:
- earn a minimum monthly salary of no less than two times the state minimum wage for full time employment
- customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in their jobs
Ortiz was night shift supervisor to 80 to 100 employees but says he couldn’t write anyone up nor did Amazon let him call in staff to cover short-staffed shifts. Again, manager stuff.
The court has already decided that Ortiz does not have a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim. You may recall a handful of KPMG audit associates trying to hit the firm with an FLSA claim a few years back, unfortunately for them that was a no-go. Their claim hinged on their entry-level status, as the auditors claimed their work was routine, didn’t require advanced education, and was heavily supervised. The court determined “that the audit associates did, in fact, receive substantial specialized accounting training, perform accounting tasks, and could be automatically promoted to senior accounting positions after two years of employment. As a result, in December 2012, a District court judge found the audit associates were well-educated, well-compensated, and not entitled to overtime pay because the FLSA was not intended to apply to them.”1
Who knows what will come of this lawsuit, but we do know from California’s recent drama over gig work that they aren’t playing around regarding employee misclassification.
Ortiz v. Amazon.com LLC et al [Law360]