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Amazon Prime Now drivers suing for unpaid overtime

Four drivers for Amazon’s Prime Now file suit claiming they were misclassified as independent contractors

Four drivers for'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. launched Prime Now, its one-and two-hour delivery service, in New York last year and has steadily expanded. The online retailer is increasingly experimenting with new modes of delivery after years of relying on companies like FedEx, which has settled a similar suit earlier this year.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Amazon and the courier service Scoobeez and its parent company, ABT Holdings, the four drivers say they were hired by the separate courier contractor but work exclusively for Amazon. They wear Amazon Prime Now uniforms, work regular shifts and receive work assignments from Amazon, according to a copy of the lawsuit provided by the plaintiffs.

That makes the California drivers employees, the lawsuit said, entitled to overtime and meal breaks. And, after factoring in expenses such as gas, the suit claims that the drivers received less than California's $9 minimum wage even though they are paid $11 an hour.

The suit is the latest disruption of the so-called gig economy dominated by companies such as Uber, which view workers as independent contractors. The federal Department of Labor recently issued a clarification finding that most workers are employees” and 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. Re-classification of independent contractors as employees could cost millions of dollars.

Beth Ross, the lead attorney in the Amazon Prime Now lawsuit, told the Los Angeles Times the Amazon Prime Now 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."

Amazon representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ross filed a similar lawsuit involving FedEx drivers. Earlier this year, the company agreed to pay $227 million to resolve a similar lawsuit in which California drivers alleged they had been misclassified as contractors.

Hundreds of delivery drivers are employed by the courier as contractors out of Amazon's Southern California warehouses, the lawsuit said, and the company recently expanded to San Francisco.

Al Jazeera with Reuters

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