A former Amazon warehouse manager filed a potential class action lawsuit accusing the online retail giant of failing to pay him overtime. In his claim, Michael Ortiz alleges Amazon deliberately misclassified him as an exempt salaried manager when, in fact, his duties were the same as a nonexempt employee. His lawsuit claims this is a violation of California employment law.
California’s overtime rules are among the strictest in the country, with very narrow exemptions. They also place the burden on employers to prove an employee is truly exempt from overtime. Simply giving a worker the title of manager or supervisor is not enough to classify them as exempt under the law if their duties are the same as a nonexempt employee.
This is called misclassification and is also illegal under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In Ortiz’s case, he was hired as a salaried manager and promised supervisory-level work. As he told The New York Times, that turned out not to be the case.
“When we were hired, we were told we would be managers working on high-end things,” he said. “In reality, the bulk of the managers got stuck doing very tedious work.”
Ortiz also claims he was injured while performing manual labor, and alleges Amazon fired him as a result.
Misclassification Is Wage Theft
Misclassification is a very common way for companies to try to avoid paying overtime. They often give titles to workers that sound as if the positions involve management duties in order to classify them as exempt from overtime. Too often, however, the job the employee actually performs is no different from an hourly worker who is owed overtime for putting in more than 40 hours a week.
In order to be exempt from overtime, employees must spend most of their time supervising or managing other workers. They must also have significant personal control over how they do their jobs. If these tests are not met, then the workers must be paid overtime.
Misclassified workers may have the right to sue an employer under state law or the federal FLSA. Many companies have faced such lawsuits and paid compensation to their wage theft victims.
Several class action lawsuits involving these kinds of issues have been brought and successfully resolved by a variety of wage abuse victims:
- Avis and Budget Car Rental managers
- Burger King coaches
- Costco managers
- Family Dollar Stores managers
- FedEx truck drivers
- Fox Searchlight Pictures interns
- Haliburton field service representatives and specialists
- Kelly Services call center agents
- Department of Veterans Affairs assistant canteen chiefs
- Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us assistant store managers
- Uber and Lyft drivers
- UBS client adviser associates
- Verizon Communications supervisors
There are time limits for filing such lawsuits, however, and quick action is needed. If you suspect your employer has misclassified your position in order to avoid paying overtime, you should consult an experienced employment attorney immediately.