On Wednesday, a U.S. appeals court ordered Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN.O) to face a statewide class action for improperly monitoring delivery drivers’ private Facebook groups.
A divided panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that driver Drickey Jackson’s 2020 lawsuit was unaffected by his agreement to arbitrate work-related disagreements.
Jackson can now represent at least 800 Amazon drivers in class action instead of individual arbitration.
Jackson’s lawsuit argues that Amazon’s “social listening team” used automated techniques to monitor and intercept messages to private Facebook groups, violating drivers’ privacy and eavesdropping.
Amazon and Jackson’s lawyers did not respond to inquiries. Amazon denies guilt.
Jackson highlighted a leaked document claiming to show an internal social media monitoring list of 43 private Facebook groups drivers ran in different areas in court documents.
He claims Amazon utilized sophisticated digital techniques to monitor the groups and acquire information about planned strikes and protests, unionizing activities, wages and perks, and whether researchers studying Amazon’s workforce approached drivers.
Amazon claims Jackson’s agreement requires arbitration. It covers “any dispute or claim… arising out of or relating in any way to… your participation in the program, or to your performance of services.”
The 9th Circuit ruled on Wednesday that drivers’ use of private Facebook groups and Amazon’s claimed privacy violations did not affect Jackson’s services or his contract with the firm. A 2021 California federal judge ruling was upheld.
Circuit Judge Susan Graber dissentingly argued that the case should be arbitrated because Jackson’s claims would never have arisen without his business relationship with Amazon.