Amazon.com, Inc., and Prime Now LLC face a proposed class action that claims the companies have unlawfully required California employees to work remotely two days per week, often for several hours, without pay.
Filed in San Francisco Superior Court on February 27 and removed to California’s Northern District on April 23, the 19-page suit says the companies have overstepped the California Labor Code by failing to pay Prime Now associates proper wages, reimburse business expenses, provide reporting time pay and conform to state wait-time rules, among other violations.
The companies, who deliver groceries and consumer goods from Whole Foods, Pet Food Express, Sprouts, Bristol Farms and other local third parties, provide Prime Now associates with a smartphone to be used only while on the clock to receive orders from Amazon Prime customers, the case says. Once a Prime customer places an order, the associate is tasked with collecting the items on the consumer’s list and preparing the bag or bags to be picked up by delivery drivers, the suit explains.
According to the lawsuit, Prime Now associates are not assigned scheduled or regular shifts by the defendants. Instead, the case says, Amazon and Prime Now hire associates to work under a “regular adjustable hours” model requiring the individuals to log onto the companies’ website twice per week and select from a “limited number of available shifts” granted on a first-come, first-served basis and released online every Sunday and Tuesday.
Prime Now associates who fail to pick up or work any shifts for multiple weeks are subject to discipline, the suit adds, stressing the importance that proposed class members sign on twice a week or risk losing their jobs.
The issue, the lawsuit argues, is that Amazon and Prime Now hire and retain more associates than the number of available shifts each week. As a result of this hiring practice, there are not enough available shifts to spread among an “overwhelming number” of Prime Now associates each week, the suit says. Though this is “enormously beneficial” to Amazon and Prime Now, associates’ subjection to the unpredictability of when they’ll be able to pick up shifts leads some to wait and refresh their screens for hours in order to gain work for the upcoming week, according to the case.
Prime Associates forced to wait for shifts “cannot commit to plans” that make them unavailable to log into Amazon’s website during the Sunday and Tuesday shift-opening time frames, the lawsuit says. In all, the case claims the time spent by Prime Associates waiting to see whether they can pick up shifts amounts to compensable work time.
The complaint relays that employees such as Prime Now associates must be compensated under California Labor Law for every hour in which they’re “suffered or permitted to work.” The law defines “hours worked” as the time an employee remains subject to the control of an employer, the suit says. According to the lawsuit, the defendants owe Prime Now associates unreimbursed business expenses related to the use of their work cell phones and internet access in addition to compensation for rest periods workers have been unable to take due to the “unrealistic time constraints” imposed on those collecting and bagging grocery items.
The case looks to represent anyone who worked as a Prime Now Associate in California for or on behalf of one or more of the defendants from December 2015 through the present.