Three drivers who contracted with Amazon.com to deliver packages are suing the world’s largest internet-based retailer for federal labor law violations, according to reports.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Wash. Tuesday alleges that Amazon violated the federal Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) by classifying the drivers as contractors rather than employees.
Amazon classified the delivery drivers as independent contractors, when in fact the company directly contracted the drivers as employees. By identifying the drivers incorrectly, Amazon violated the FLSA, which entitles employees to a minimum wage and overtime pay for any work that exceeds a forty hour work week, according to Money Magazine.
The attorney representing the drivers leads class-action lawsuits against technology companies for alleged labor law violations regularly. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan filed multiple class-action lawsuits against Uber on behalf of its drivers. Her efforts against Uber resulted in a proposed $100 million settlement, which was eventually denied by the court for concerns over reduction of recoverable penalties.
The drivers in the case are Bernadean Rittmann, Freddie Carroll, and Julia Wehmeyer, who all worked for Amazon through a service called, “Amazon Flex.” Amazon described the program, saying that, “anyone can earn up to $25 per hour by delivering packages when and where they want.” Amazon Flex is part of Amazon’s strategy to compete directly with delivery services like FedEx and UPS.
The company’s aggressive push to grow its delivery capabilities highlights a growing public policy conundrum which pits entrenched labor laws and standards against a rapidly evolving tech-based economy.
The lawsuits assert that the drivers are not independent contractors, but actual employees because they are closely supervised, trained by the company, and can be fired at Amazon’s discretion.
Amazon said in a statement that “feedback from Flex drivers has been very positive — they really enjoy being their own boss,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Amazon is yet another company that is saving on labor costs by hiring delivery drivers who perform the work that the company does and not calling them employees,” Liss-Riordan said in an interview, according to the Seattle Times.
The lawsuit follows a recent stream of labor law cases stemming from what is being labeled as the new, “gig economy.” In another miss-classification case involving delivery drivers, FedEx Corporation settled with drivers for $240 million in January.
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