Thousands of Amazon Flex drivers in the US have initiated arbitration claims against e-commerce giant Amazon, alleging that they have been misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees, Reuters has reported, citing lawyers representing the drivers. 

This classification could potentially entitle them to unpaid wages, overtime and expense reimbursements. 

The claims, submitted in California, Illinois and Massachusetts, state that the drivers should be considered employees under the law.  

This status would make them eligible for benefits including compensation for personal car mileage and cell phone use incurred while working, a Bloomberg report states. 

15,800 drivers have presented their cases to the American Arbitration Association, demanding remuneration for unpaid wages and work-related expenses.  

This follows an earlier batch of 450 similar claims filed to the association. 

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The arbitration submissions include grievances about Amazon’s failure to provide mandated rest and meal breaks for shifts extending beyond certain hours.  

Reuters reports the claim that the e-commerce retailer failed to provide 30-minute meal breaks for drivers working for more than five hours per day. 

Drivers also claim that Amazon has not supplied the itemised wage statements that California law requires. 

Amazon Flex operates similarly to the ride-hailing service Uber, facilitating rapid deliveries of household items through services such as Prime Now and Amazon Fresh.  

Bloomberg quoted Amazon spokesperson Branden Baribeau: “The Amazon Flex programme gives individuals the opportunity to set their own schedule and be their own boss, while earning competitive pay.  

“We hear from most of the Amazon Flex delivery partners that they love the flexibility of the programme, and we’re proud of the work they do on behalf of customers every day.” 

Amazon recently faced a class action lawsuit in the UK for the alleged misuse of retailer data and manipulation of its Buy Box feature to benefit its commercial operation.