This past summer, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced a need for aspiring entrepreneurs and offered them a chance to make $300,000 per year by starting their own Amazing delivery business with as little as $10,000 required to get started. Amazon is highly dependent on the creation of a network of independent drivers around the country as they struggle to keep up with demand. To entice entrepreneurs, Amazon uses their buying buyer to get their partners good deals on necessary items, like: vans, insurance, etc. Then they provide them with a steady stream of items to be delivered.
The entrepreneurs tackling Amazon’s delivery needs are actually facing the bigger challenge as they attempt to recruit and hire drivers who can meet the high standards of Amazon at a low pay rate.
The structure leaves Amazon in a bit of a gray area legally. They have to be careful how much control they are exerting over the people employed by their delivery companies. Amazon already faces a number of lawsuits from delivery drivers that claim they were not paid wages as required by federal law while employed by Amazon partners and they’re including Amazon in the list of responsible parties since their job duties were on behalf of the giant online retailer. If Amazon finds a legal way to add drivers and vans without spending their own company funds, the risk could be worth it for them in the long run.
Amazon has already gathered tens of thousands of entrepreneurs excited for this type of ground floor opportunity. The aspiring entrepreneurs go through phone interviews and several days of training. Within a few months, hundreds of new businesses have popped up all over America and they’re employing thousands of delivery drivers. More hopefuls fill a waiting list for further expansion in the coming year.
The business model appears profitable for Amazon as they avoid both the costs of training and maintaining drivers throughout the nation. The business model also appears profitable for entrepreneurs looking for a chance to run their own business with the power of Amazon supporting their efforts – many entrepreneurs are already enjoying the fruits of their efforts as Amazon partners. Yet Amazon’s new delivery model is drawing lawsuits that allege Amazon partners are violating overtime pay requirements by paying their drivers daily rates instead of hourly wages. A case in Illinois referred to the Amazon Partner Delivery Model as an “unlawful scheme” trying to avoid responsibility for providing legal wages to delivery drivers. FedEx paid out a $13 million lawsuit settlement to resolve claims of “misclassification” of workers leading to lost wages. They altered their business model in response, now requiring service providers to keep drivers on payroll. Amazon ended up settling in a similar lawsuit filed in California alleging that contract delivery drivers (listed as independent contractors) were underpaid.
Finding people willing to do quality work at low wages is a significant challenge. Most drivers are paid around $15/hour. This particular challenge has been passed from Amazon to the Amazon partners responsible for managing routes and drivers. Many expect this to be a slight redirection of the problem rather than a solution.
If you are dealing with misclassification in the workplace or you need to find out how to obtain overtime pay you are owed, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.