A federal judge in California ordered DoorDash to individually arbitrate employment misclassification claims brought by more than 5,000 food couriers rejecting its request to stay the proceedings. The judge called the company’s actions “hypocricy” in requiring workers to sign arbitration agreements and then seeking classwide litigation. The decision to compel 5,010 couriers to arbitration comes as a blow to DoorDash, which asked the court to put on ice the consolidated federal suit accusing it of misclassifying thousands of couriers while a California state court decides whether to preliminarily approve a $39.5 million settlement in an overlapping case.
In a written order issued after Monday’s hearing, the judge granted the couriers’ motion to compel arbitration for 5,010 couriers and ordered DoorDash to “immediately commence” arbitrating with the couriers via the American Arbitration Association. Judge Alsup denied the motion as to 869 couriers who merely submitted witness statements. “For decades, the employer-side bar and their employer clients have forced arbitration clauses upon workers, thus taking away their right to go to court, and forced class-action waivers upon them, too, thus taking away their ability to join collectively to vindicate common rights,” the judge wrote in his order. “The employer here, DoorDash, faced with having to actually honor its side of the bargain, now blanches at the cost of the filing fees it agreed to pay in the arbitration clause.” “No doubt, DoorDash never expected that so many would actually seek arbitration. Instead, in irony upon irony, DoorDash now wishes to resort to a classwide lawsuit, the very device it denied to the workers, to avoid its duty to arbitrate,” the judge continued. “This hypocrisy will not be blessed, at least by this order.”
While the plaintiffs claimed they already paid their fees to the American Arbitration Association, DoorDash has allegedly refused to pay its share by AAA’s deadlines due to purported “deficiencies” in the couriers’ arbitration demands, which resulted in the AAA effectively freezing the couriers’ cases, according to the arbitration petition. The couriers claim that DoorDash and its lawyers were working to impose a new arbitration agreement that purports to supersede the previous version and significantly changes the rules for how and where the arbitration proceedings will be conducted from what the couriers had initially agreed to, they alleged in court filings.
The cases are Terrell Abernathy et al. v. DoorDash Inc., and Christine Boyd et al. v. DoorDash Inc., case numbers 3:19-cv-07545 and 3:19-cv-07646, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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