- Three drivers for Amazon Flex filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging the company had misclassified them as independent contractors, when they were actually employees, various sources report.
- Amazon Flex is an app-based shift assignment option for the company's parcel delivery drivers by which they can choose their hours and schedule their own pickups, now available in roughly 30 metropolitan areas according to The Wall Street Journal.
- The drivers are demanding back wages, overtime pay and compensation for fuel, car maintenance and other expenses since they must follow Amazon's route instructions, undergo training and are financially dependent on the company whose business model includes them.
Initially, the gig economy seemed to benefit both workers and the companies with which they contract, but it has quickly sailed into murky waters. With lawsuits continuing despite the recently dismissed claims against Uber, worker dissatisfaction has grown into a trend, potentially disrupting a crucial portion of the supply chain logistics: last-mile delivery.
At issue from a legal standpoint is the definition of whether a worker depends on an employer for income, and to what extent. Thus far rulings have gone in both directions. Employees rejoiced in June when FedEx agreed to pay $240 million to settle driver misclassification lawsuits covering 12,000 FedEx Ground drivers in 20 states. More recently, however, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided independent contractors could not file class-action lawsuits, dealing a blow to the movement.
In the interim, as cases continue to mount, the Department of Labor will see increased pressure to develop clear, consistent terms for determining when an employee can truly be classified as an independent contractor.