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Amazon Prime Now drivers sue the company over contractor status

Yet another fight for worker classification

Four former drivers for Amazon Prime Now are suing the Seattle-based retailer over wages and benefits they say Amazon denied them by classifying its delivery members as contractors and not employees. The drivers worked for Amazon's Irvine, California warehouse where they made same-day deliveries for Prime Now, the service Amazon began in December 2014 in New York City and has since expanded to 10 other markets in the US. The suit claims Amazon violated minimum wage law and broke rules regarding breaks and overtime pay, according to a report from Ars Technica.

Amazon hired the four Prime Now drivers through a company called Scoobeez, Inc., which is also listed in the suit. Those drivers are required to pay for gas, insurance, and maintenance costs on their own personal vehicles and don't quality for benefits like health insurance, meal breaks, or overtime pay because Amazon classifies the workers as contractors and not full-time employees. The crux of the lawsuit is whether Amazon's classification was illegal under California labor law.

Amazon required set hours and witheld meal breaks, suit claims

Unlike other on-demand service providers like ride hailing app Uber and grocery delivery company Instacart, Amazon requires its Prime Now drivers work a fixed schedule and even show up to the Amazon warehouse prior to the start of their shifts. Uber and other startups have managed to mount a defense against classifying workers as employees by claiming its drivers make their own schedules and decide when and for how long they'll work.

The tensions over classification are rising, however, as Uber faces down a class-action lawsuit over worker classification in California that could restructure its entire operation in the state. Instacart, on the other hand, decided in June to give some members of its grocery delivery workforce in Boston and Chicago the opportunity to classify as part-time employees.