Legal Battles Could Affect Amazon's Bottom Line & What It Means for Investors, Inc. (AMZN), a global e-commerce giant, is navigating significant legal challenges that could impact its financial health and stock price. Earlier this month, more than 15,000 drivers contracted with Amazon Flex filed arbitration claims against the company, alleging their job positions were misclassified.

Lawyers representing the case confirm that the delivery drivers believe Amazon incorrectly classified them as independent contractors instead of employees. By classifying these drivers as independent contractors, AMZN has avoided the extra wages, benefits, overtime pay, and reimbursement for expenses they would be entitled to as full-time employees.

The legal claims have been submitted to the American Arbitration Association (AAA) in California, Illinois, and Massachusetts as laws about employee misclassification are “very clear” in these states, attorney Steven Tindall told CNN. This is the second batch of Amazon drivers to file arbitration claims, following a previous filing of 450 similar claims with the AAA.

Details of Arbitration Claims and Their Implications on Amazon’s Financial Health

Amazon Flex, introduced in 2015, enables independent contractors to sign up to deliver Amazon packages. Flex drivers handle Amazon Fresh grocery deliveries and same-day deliveries from the company’s warehouse hubs. However, drivers now claim that they are working full-time schedules without any significant benefits that being an employee entails.

In a statement, Tindall and another attorney, Joseph Sellers, said Amazon only pays the drivers for a pre-determined "block” of time. Flex drivers must select a time block beforehand, and they are only paid based on that ore-selected time regardless of how long it takes to complete the deliveries. For instance, if a driver selects a three-hour block on the app, he only gets paid for three hours, even if the delivery takes longer.

Although Amazon’s website states that Flex drivers earn between $18 and $25 per hour, this does not include the extra unpaid hours many drivers work due to longer-than-expected delivery times. Also, it does not cover drivers’ work-related expenses, such as mileage and cell phone usage, which considerably reduce their monthly pay.

Further, the complaint includes other grievances, such as Amazon’s failure to provide drivers with paid 10-minute rest breaks for deliveries taking more than 3.5 hours to complete. To this specific claim, Amazon representatives responded, telling reporters that “the majority of Amazon Flex delivery partners finish their delivery blocks early,” suggesting that rest breaks were largely unnecessary.

Additionally, grievances included a lack of 30-minute meal breaks for Flex drivers working more than 5 hours per day.

AMZN’s spokesperson Braden Baribeau addressed these claims, saying  Flex “gives individuals the opportunity to set their own schedule and be their own boss, while earning competitive pay. We hear from most of the Amazon Flex delivery partners that they love the flexibility of the program, and we’re proud of the work they do on behalf of customers every day.”

The arbitration claims recently filed by Amazon Flex drivers asking for overtime compensation and unpaid wages represent a significant legal challenge for the company. Legal experts suggest that successful claims could lead to hefty settlements, potentially costing AMZN hundreds of millions of dollars and impacting its upcoming quarterly earnings.

If Amazon is required to reclassify Flex drivers as full-time employees, it would fundamentally alter its cost structure. As a result, it could lead to increased labor costs due to the provision of benefits, minimum wage guarantees, and overtime pay. These operational changes might pressure Amazon’s profit margins in the long term.

Legal uncertainties and the potential for enormous settlements or operational overhauls can create volatility in AMZN’s stock. Investors typically react negatively to legal challenges, especially when the financial implications are significant and uncertain. The news of these arbitration claims could lead to a temporary dip in Amazon’s stock price as investors reassess the company’s risk profile.

Other Ongoing Legal Battles

A week before the arbitration claims came to light, a substantial billion-pound lawsuit (nearly $1.3 billion) was filed against AMZN from the British retailers who alleged that the online marketplace misused their retail data to enhance its market share and profits.

According to its lawyers, the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), representing a coalition of numerous small traders, submitted the lawsuit on behalf of approximately 35,000 retailers at the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in London.

BIRA’s case also claims that Amazon unfairly influenced the “Buy Box” feature on its website, displayed near the top of product pages, in a way that favored its interests. This “Buy Box” is the subject of a separate lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers, with potential damages estimated at up to 900 million pounds ($1.1 billion).

In another development, a judge has scheduled a June 2025 trial in the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) lawsuit against AMZN. The case accuses Amazon of deceptively enrolling millions of online shoppers into its Prime service without their consent and making it hard for them to leave.

Last year, the FTC alleged AMZN of using “manipulative, coercive or deceptive user-interface designs known as ‘dark patterns’ to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically renewing Prime subscriptions.”

The lawsuit is among several legal actions by federal and state governments challenging Amazon's business practices. Last year, the FTC accused Amazon in an antitrust lawsuit of abusing its market power by restricting sellers’ ability to offer better prices on competing platforms.

If the FTC’s claims are upheld, Amazon could face substantial fines and be required to change its business practices. These fines could reach the billions, significantly affecting the e-commerce titan’s financial health.

Bottom Line

AMZM’s ongoing legal challenges pose a multifaceted risk to its financial health and stock price. The arbitration claims by Flex drivers, a significant data abuse lawsuit from British retailers, and ongoing FTC lawsuits induce increased uncertainty around Amazon, typically eroding investor confidence. Negative headlines and the looming possibility of substantial financial penalties can lead to stock price volatility.

The resolution of these legal disputes is pivotal for the company. If Amazon successfully defends against the claims or reaches manageable settlements, investor confidence could rebound, stabilizing and potentially boosting the stock price.

Thus, investors should closely monitor these developments as they could have far-reaching implications for AMZN’s financial performance and market position.