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Amazon's holiday employment woes

Amazon is under fire again, on the heels of the end-of-year holiday rush. Hundreds of packages need delivering and to fulfill the orders that pour in from Cyber Monday on, Amazon contracts delivery services with UPS, FedEx, the US postal service and local couriers. Where Amazon is catching heat is through its work with courier services.

Drivers for couriers are required to check in and pick up packages at an Amazon center and then head out to gas up and make their rounds. However, Amazon does not consider any of those drivers as an employee despite Amazon's demand drivers make all drops on time and control other aspects of their deliveries. Often, many drivers have to skip lunch or rest breaks and must make a delivery approximately every two minutes to meet this demand. 

Amazon considers these drivers as independent contractors but drivers from four different states have sued, claiming Amazon has misclassified them. Additionally, drivers claim Amazon has denied them overtime and pays them less than minimum wage because of the expenses they incur each week.

Elements for an employee

Given the level of control Amazon has over their contractors, they just may a point. Amazon allegedly keeps detailed performance records on each delivery driver through the courier and allegedly pressures the contractors, such as LMS Transportation, to fire certain drivers.

Additionally, Amazon requires the local couriers to take an Amazon-issued Android phone with a scanning app. The app scans the packages and then determines which route the driver should take. It also allows Amazon to track how much progress a driver has made in the day.

After all of this, if you are wondering what makes an employee, California defines an employer and employee relationship by:

  • If the worker is performing a job that is different from that of the company.
  • Whether or not the work performed is part of regular business.
  • Who supplies the materials or tools needed to perform the work.
  • If the work is done with or without supervision from the company.
  • If the worker has an opportunity for profit or loss based on managerial skill.
  • The length of time a worker has performed services.
  • Method of payment.
  • Whether or not the company retains control over details and performance.

What if I signed a contract agreement?

Signing an agreement to be an independent contractor does not necessarily make you a non-employee. California courts and the Labor Commissioner look at how your relationship actually is to determine the nature of your employment status.

The holidays are a common time for wage and labor disputes to occur. In some cases, the business may not know they are breaking the law while others do. If you believe you have been shorted overtime, have not been given the proper rest periods, or are being underpaid etc., speak to an attorney who is experienced with employment law issues so you can get piece of mind. 

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