E-commerce giant Amazon is once against at the center of a debate about how corporations treat their contract workers.
On Wednesday, two Washington delivery drivers filed a lawsuit in the King County Superior Court against the intermediary company Jungle Trux for not granting them proper meal or rest breaks. They alleged that their employer also failed to compensate them for all of the hours they worked, or to grant them overtime pay. And they say that Amazon is just as culpable for violating labor laws. Drivers Gus Ortiz and Mark Fredley are also suing Amazon, which contracts workers through Jungle Trux and requires drivers to deliver Amazon packages according to the company’s rules and procedures.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon requires Jungle Trux drivers to wear Amazon uniforms, deliver packages according to their timeframe and procedures, and to meet with Amazon officials to discuss any packages that were not delivered.
The complaint details that Jungle Trux and Amazon often require drivers to deliver between 150 to 200 packages per day, without a system to relieve overworked drivers. As a result, employees often work over three consecutive hours without a 10 minute rest break, or over five hours without a 30-minute meal break. The complaint also alleges that the companies failed to pay the drivers for those missed meals and rest breaks.
Ortiz and Fredley are seeking class action status, to be paid backpay, and to be protected from future wage and hourly violations, said attorney Toby Marshall.
“If that ultimately requires Amazon to consider the drivers to be its own employees, then so be it,” Marshall told Seattle Weekly. “But at a minimum, Amazon needs to be held responsible to ensure that the wage and hour laws are followed. Whether it chooses to do that by hiring drivers directly or whether it chooses to hire them through intermediaries, it needs to ensure that they are paid appropriately, that they get the rest and meal breaks Washington State Law requires and that they get fully compensated for the job that they’re doing for Amazon,” he added.
Marshall said that it’s unclear why Amazon hires its own employees for other aspects of its business, but chooses to hire subcontractors for the delivery process.
“It’s this last mile—the warehouse to the customer—where they’ve chosen to not use their own employees, but instead set up this scheme where they hire what they call delivery providers,” Marshall said.
He surmises that Amazon uses subcontractors “to keep their labor costs down.” This, he said, creates a situation in which Amazon puts the intermediary companies under a lot of pressure to perform, and in turn, the contractors expect too much from the drivers. “So that pressure from Amazon ends up … bringing its full weight on the drivers,” Marshall said.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday isn’t the first time that Amazon has been accused of violating labor laws. In 2015, a group of California drivers for Amazon Prime Now delivery alleged that they were denied mileage reimbursements and overtime pay. Amazon Prime Now delivery drivers in Phoenix, Arizona made similar accusations in a class action lawsuit filed against the company last year, which was followed by another lawsuit against Amazon from Chicago drivers. Last year, three Amazon Flex drivers filed a lawsuit against the company in the U.S. District Court in Seattle for allegedly neglecting to ensure that the workers received minimum wage and overtime pay.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the lawyer representing Jungle Trux, Karen Kruse, chose not to be interviewed.
To Marshall, the violations are symptomatic of Amazon’s relationship with intermediary companies. He said that contractors like Jungle Trux aren’t paid enough to ensure that the labor laws are followed.
“At the end of the day, we think that Amazon really is in a position to ensure that the drivers are protected from these wage and hourly abuses,” Marshall said.