Amazon

Amazon aims to reduce its traditional two-day delivery to less than two hours, and has expanded its Prime Now delivery service to more than 15 major U.S. cities in less than a year.

Chris Kirkham
October 30, 2015

Taree Truong wore a uniform bearing Amazon’s logo, signed into an Amazon tracking device and was told by Amazon dispatchers to make deliveries for its new Prime Now courier service across far-flung parts of Orange County.

During one trip at rush hour, Truong said she was expected to drive from Amazon’s Irvine warehouse to Lake Forest, then Mission Viejo, back to Irvine and on to Newport Beach — all within two hours.

“Everything we did was under their control,” said Truong, of Garden Grove. “They’re telling us where we need to go, how to deliver these packages to customers and how to interact with those customers when we’re there.”

Yet Truong and other drivers for Amazon Prime Now weren’t considered employees of Amazon or Scoobeez, its contracted courier company. Instead, they were treated as independent contractors — making them ineligible for overtime pay, mileage reimbursement, workers’ compensation and other protections given to employees under state and federal law.

She’s one of four former Prime Now drivers who sued the company and its contractor in state court this week, alleging that Amazon is achieving speed and affordability only by cheating workers.

Amazon aims to reduce its traditional two-day delivery to less than two hours, and has expanded its Prime Now delivery service to more than 15 major U.S. cities in less than a year.

Using strategically located warehouses, the Internet retail giant promises near-instant gratification for customers who want cheap paper towels, snacks or toys. But the quest for brutal efficiency often falls on Amazon workers, according to the lawsuit.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company does not comment on pending litigation, and company representatives did not respond to additional questions on whether Prime Now drivers in other parts of the country are also classified as contractors. Scoobeez did not respond to requests for comment.

The suit is the latest battleground in the employee-vs.-contractor debate that has raged over the last year. High-flying start-ups such as Uber, Lyft and Handy also face challenges from workers who say the companies are profiting by paying less in labor costs. The companies, in turn, have argued that workers benefit from more flexible schedules and are free to pursue other gigs.

While Silicon Valley start-ups have attracted outsized public attention, much of the debate centers on industries where work is performed off-site: maintenance, IT installation and delivery driving.

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

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