Amazon Contractors Sue to Find Out Who is the Boss
Amazon was sued by Illinois delivery drivers who say the company failed to pay them overtime for hauling its goods, according to Bloomberg. Among the questions the judge will have to answer is whether they actually worked for Amazon or not. “Amazon controls everything, without a shadow of a doubt,” says Theron Bradley, a former employee of Amazon contractor Silverstar who’s one of the named plaintiffs in the proposed class action. “Silverstar pays me, but I definitely know I work for Amazon.”
Bradley’s lawsuit, filed this week in Chicago federal court, targets not just the contractor that signed his paychecks but the e-commerce behemoth itself. In the complaint, he contends Amazon was so involved in his day-to-day work as to be a “joint employer” and as such, liable for the alleged violations under both state and federal law. Drivers have also brought wage-and-hour lawsuits naming Amazon as an employer in Washington State and California.
Amazon sees its relationship with the drivers differently. “The small and medium-sized businesses that partner with Amazon logistics have their own employees and are required to abide by applicable laws and Amazon’s Supplier Code of Conduct,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “We investigate any claim that a provider isn’t complying with these obligations.” (An attorney for Silverstar said Wednesday it was still investigating the allegations.)
But labor advocates say when it comes to contracted workers like Bradley, Amazon is much more than a mere consumer of services. “The trainings were done by Amazon personnel, the daily assignments were given out by Amazon personnel, Amazon personnel tracked the routes taken by the drivers, they wore Amazon logos,” says the workers’ attorney, Chris Williams. “If there was a problem with package delivery, they went to Amazon. They didn’t go to Silverstar.”
The Illinois lawsuit is among the latest in a series of efforts by activists, attorneys, and agencies to hold name-brand companies accountable for the conditions of workers they rely on but are ostensibly employed by someone else–be it a supplier, a franchisee, or (if they’re classified as independent contractors) no one at all.