Delivery drivers sue Amazon over wages

Four drivers for Amazon are looking for more money. The  drivers for Amazon.com’s Prime Now service filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, claiming the online retailer wrongly classified them as independent contractors and owes unpaid overtime.

Amazon launched Prime Now, its one- and two-hour delivery service, in New York last year and has steadily expanded into other cities. The online retailer is increasingly experimenting with new modes of delivery after years of relying on companies like FedEx.

The lawsuit, filed by Oakland-based Leonard Carder LLP in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) of failing to pay overtime, failing to provide breaks, and a host of other violations around its instant delivery service, which allows shoppers to request one- to two-hour delivery of thousands of items across its inventory.

“Amazon’s mission to deliver ‘Now’ at no additional cost is being funded by its delivery drivers,’ said Beth Ross, the attorney representing the drivers.

According to the suit, although drivers are paid $11 an hour, the suit claims that many are in reality receiving less than California’s $9 minimum wage after factoring in expenses such as gas, tolls and maintenance.

As the Los Angels Times points out, “the question of whether workers are employees or independent contractors has gotten increased attention over the last year, as companies in the so-called gig economy (Uber, TaskRabbit) have redefined the traditional employer-employee relationship. Last month a federal judge in San Francisco gave the go-ahead to a class-action lawsuit involving Uber drivers who claim they should be treated as employees.”

Beth Ross, the lead attorney in the Amazon Prime Now lawsuit, said the case is more clear-cut than the Uber lawsuit.

“These are people who are in no way, shape or form in business for themselves,” Ross said. “They’re people who interviewed for a job, were hired for that job and show up to an Amazon warehouse every day.”

Ross and her firm, Leonard Carder, earlier this year won a $228-million settlement with FedEx in a case involving California delivery drivers who were classified as independent contractors.

Amazon and Scoobeez did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.