The District of Columbia’s attorney general has sued Amazon, accusing the online-retail giant of withholding tips from its delivery drivers.
The move comes after the company settled with the Federal Trade Commission last year in a lawsuit that claimed they withheld more than $60 million from Amazon Flex drivers.
Amazon Flex drivers use their own vehicles to deliver Amazon Prime and grocery products, reportedly servicing thousands of District customers.
District Attorney General Karl Racine is trying to do what the FTC could not do last year — make Amazon stop the pay practices that allowed for the short-changing.
“When a company is caught stealing from its workers, it is not enough for the company to repay the amount stolen. Stealing from workers is theft, and significant penalties are necessary to strongly disincentivize this unlawful conduct,” Mr. Racine said in a statement.
The federal lawsuit accused Amazon of publicly claiming to have raised driver pay and of advertising certain amounts. What it actually did, according to regulators, was divert their electronically-paid tips to a pool that went to their base pay, effectively taking their tips.
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The new lawsuit is attempting not only to force Amazon to give the tip money back — the federal lawsuit achieved that goal — but also to impose financial penalties on Amazon for the practice and to get a court order to prevent Amazon from continuing the practice.
“Amazon has thus far escaped any other consequences. Plaintiff the District of Columbia, through its Office of the Attorney General, brings this enforcement action to hold Amazon to account for its unlawful actions and to send a clear message to employers not to divert tips for their own benefit,” the lawsuit reads.
Mr. Racine says that Amazon tricked its customers into thinking that the online-shopping giant had increased wages for drivers.
The claim is similar to the FTC accusations from last year, where the commission said Amazon withheld tips from drivers for up to 2 1/2 years. Amazon paid $61.7 million to over 140,000 drivers in response to the lawsuit.
Amazon at the time disagreed with the assessment and said it had improved its pay transparency since the investigation.
It has yet to comment on the new lawsuit.