Another class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against human cloud firm Instacart claiming misclassification of workers as independent contractors in 11 states. It seeks damages of more than $5 million.
Instacart allows customers to order groceries online or through an app and have them delivered to their door. Delivery drivers and workers who both pick out items at supermarkets and deliver them are independent contractors.
“Instacart does not recognize itself as a grocery delivery service, instead calling itself a ‘technology company that offers a proprietary communications and logistics platform,’” according to the lawsuit. “In reality, its ‘platform’ assigns customer orders to workers, such as plaintiffs, just as any dispatcher would assign work orders. Instacart uses these tech-heavy buzzwords to brand itself as something other than what it really is — a grocery delivery service subject to the same employment laws as any other employer.”
The new lawsuit was filed in federal court by The Arns Law Firm, which also filed an earlier lawsuit alleging Instacart workers were misclassified as independent contractors. In November 2015, a judge in the earlier suit ruled workers had to proceed via independent arbitration because of an agreement in their contract with Instacart.
However, the new lawsuit contends the arbitration agreement will be unenforceable under an August decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Morris v. Ernst & Young LLP case.
“In Morris, the Ninth Circuit held that a labor contract that prevents employees from bringing, in any forum, a concerted legal claim, including a class action, regarding wages, hours, and terms of conditions of employment violates the NLRA, is therefore illegal, and cannot be enforced,” according to the lawsuit.
A third class action claiming independent contractor misclassification for workers in California is also ongoing with preliminary approval of a proposed settlement set for Dec. 16. The Arns lawsuit argues that case and its own case filed Thursday, which has a broader scope, should be coordinated.
The latest lawsuit notes that Instacart’s shopper role in 2015 split at one point with workers in stores who picked out products being made W-2 workers while drivers remained independent contractors. However, “At a later point in the relevant period, Instacart began phasing out delivery-only positions and assigning full-service shoppers to take over delivery-only batches in addition to their usual responsibilities,” according to the lawsuit.