On Wednesday, the District of Columbia attorney general’s office sued Amazon .com Inc and its Amazon Logistics subsidiary accusing the biggest online retailer had withheld tips from delivery drivers.
Washington Attorney General Karl Racine said the company “tricked consumers into thinking they were increasing drivers’ compensation when Amazon was actually diverting tips to reduce its own labor costs and increase profits” through its Amazon Flex service.
Amazon Flex drivers use their own vehicles to deliver goods and groceries ordered through programs like Prime Now and Amazon Fresh. The FTC in its allegation said that the company kept tips over a 2.5 year period and terminated the practice after learning of the FTC probe in 2019, the FTC said in 2021.
The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, seeks civil penalties for every breach and a court order to prevent Amazon from re-engaging in the practice.
Under a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last year, Amazon paid $61.7 million to more than 140,000 drivers.
Amazon has “thus far escaped appropriate accountability, including any civil penalties, for consumer harm,” Racine said in a statement.
“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.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to the request for a comment by Reuters.
Last year, the online retail giant disagreed that the way it reported pay to drivers was unclear. “We added additional clarity in 2019 and are pleased to put this matter behind us,” an Amazon spokeswoman said at the time.