The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a federal law that lets certain workers engaged in interstate commerce file class-action suits over pay disputes doesn't apply to GrubHub drivers who clicked their agreement to settle any disagreements in arbitration with the company.
The ruling means the end of a lawsuit filed by former GrubHub drivers who had charged the company not only screwed them out of wages and tips but retaliated against them for filing complaints about how they got paid.
At issue was an agreement, in online verbiage that drivers had to click to read and then agree that they read, that barred lawsuits over wage issues and required any drivers with issues to agree to individual arbitration.
When the drivers sued, they argued the clause was not binding on them under a section of law, aimed mainly at sailors and railroad workers, that exempted workers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce, or as the court put it in its summary of the case:
The plaintiff drivers insist that they fall within the residual category because they are transportation workers who transport and deliver goods, such as prepackaged chips or soda, in the flow of interstate commerce.
Nope, the court concluded. The US Supreme Court, in a ruling defined "transportation workers" as being "actually engaged in the movement of goods in interstate commerce."
And the GrubHub drivers, while they might be delivering chips or soda produced in another state, were not engaged in moving those products across state lines, the court said.
The court contrasted them to Amazon workers, who provide "last mile" delivery of packages from other states. The products Amazon drivers deliver are part of a supply chain where from start to finish, the products were meant for a specific customer. In contrast, GrubHub drivers are delivering goods that were sent to an in-state restaurant without any knowledge of who the final customer would be. So they are not part of the inter-state transportation of those items.