A trio of drivers who deliver packages through Amazon’s Flex program this week filed a lawsuit against the online retail giant, arguing drivers should be treated as employees instead of independent contractors and subject to minimum wage and overtime protections.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court of Western Washington and first reported by The Seattle Times, seeks class action status as well as rulings that Amazon has violated federal, state and city of Seattle laws governing overtime and minimum wage and compensation for damages and attorneys fees. The plaintiffs argue that delivery drivers are an essential part of Amazon’s business and the company exerts control over drivers’ schedules and training.
Because drivers have to pay for their own vehicle expenses such as gas and maintenance as well as phone bills, the plaintiffs allege their wages fall below mandated minimums. More from the filing:
Drivers receive (unpaid) training regarding how to interact with customers and how to handle issues they encounter while making deliveries. They must follow Amazon’s instructions regarding where to make deliveries, in what order, and which route to take. Drivers can be penalized or terminated for missing scheduled shifts. Drivers also must follow requirements and rules imposed on them by Amazon and are subject to termination, based on Amazon’s discretion and/or their failure to adhere to these requirements
The plaintiffs are Bernadean Rittmann, Freddie Carroll and Julia Wehmeyer. Rittman and Carroll are both drivers in Las Vegas and former Seattle residents. Wehmeyer resides in Plano, Texas, and drives in Dallas.
Amazon provided this statement in response to the case: “With Amazon Flex, anyone can earn up to $25 per hour by delivering packages when and where they want. We launched the program last year and feedback from Flex drivers has been very positive — they really enjoy being their own boss.”
The Flex program is similar to ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, but instead of transporting passengers to a destination, they deliver packages. It has been successful in the Seattle area, and Amazon has expanded it to more locations.
Workers set their own schedule and make as many deliveries as they choose, seven days a week. They just need to be at least 21 years old and have a car, driver’s license and a clean background check.
The Amazon lawsuit is similar to several claims filed against Uber both locally and nationally, by drivers arguing they should be classified as employees. In fact, two attorneys working on the Amazon case, Shannon Liss-Riordan and Adelaide Pagano are involved in two Uber class action suits.
Locally, ride-hailing companies, drivers and the city of Seattle are grappling with how best to implement a unionization ordinance that would see drivers entitled to more benefits. Amazon’s Flex service is not impacted by the driver unionization ordinance because it only covers drivers shuttling human passengers, not packages.
Here is the lawsuit in full: