Three Amazon delivery drivers in Colorado are suing the tech giant over poor work conditions, including allegations of urinating in bottles and defecating in bags.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Denver District Court, drivers Leah Cross, Marco Granger-Rivera and Ryan Schilling said the pressure of “harsh work quotas” around their delivery goals kept them from using restrooms on the job.
“Drivers urinate in plastic bottles and even defecate in dog waste bags in the back of their delivery vans to ensure that they do not face discipline for failing to stay on pace with their deliveries,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit alleged violations of the drivers’ rights, including defying Colorado’s mandate for employers to provide workers with paid rest breaks every four hours and discriminating against people with female anatomy who cannot properly urinate without bathroom access.
But Amazon contested the allegations.
“We want to make it clear that we encourage our Delivery Service Partners to support their drivers,” Amazon spokesperson Sam Stephenson said. “That includes giving drivers the time they need for breaks in between stops, providing a list within the Amazon Delivery app of nearby restroom facilities and gas stations, and building in time on routes to use the restroom or take longer breaks.”
David Seligman, executive director of nonprofit law firm Towards Justice, said worker challenges in accessing the bathroom go beyond Amazon. His team has heard of the problem “for years” from employees in a variety of sectors, including transportation and manufacturing.
This particular situation could be impacting thousands of Amazon drivers statewide, Seligman said. His firm and two other legal groups are representing the plaintiffs.
“This is happening right here in Colorado, right here in Denver,” he said in a telephone interview.
The drivers are seeking unpaid wages, penalties and a change in Amazon’s policies, but it’s still too early to determine a specific monetary value, Seligman added.
Amazon’s “Delivery Service Partners” – local transposition and logistic companies – send drivers out on routes that follow schedules, with work monitored through GPS tracking and surveillance cameras in the vehicles, the lawsuit stated. It alleged that leadership is aware of the measures that drivers take to meet their work demands.
“Supervisors of Amazon drivers instruct drivers to remove ‘pee bottles’ from delivery vehicles,” the lawsuit stated. “Managers also instruct drivers to urinate or defecate outside the range of the surveillance cameras that Amazon uses in its vehicles to monitor delivery drivers.”
Trash cans in Amazon fulfillment centers are described in the lawsuit as “frequently overflowing with bottles full of urine that drivers have thrown away at the end of their shifts.”
Delivery Service Partners can lose their business with Amazon if drivers don’t follow directions, and drivers can similarly be terminated by Amazon if they don’t meet performance standards, the lawsuit stated.
Schilling, who’s worked as a driver since last August but is currently on medical leave, outlined his responsibility of hitting 170 to 200 daily stops in the lawsuit – each of which “should not take more than 2-5 minutes.” His attempts at rest breaks didn’t last 10 minutes and went unpaid, according to the lawsuit.
Schilling “often found it more difficult to find time to take care of his basic human needs while working as an Amazon DSP driver in Colorado than he did while serving in active combat for the U.S. military,” the lawsuit said.
Cross, whose gig as a delivery driver lasted from August through November 2022, referenced a suggestion from a DSP supervisor for her to buy a Shewee, or female urinating device, “which would allow her to funnel her urine into bottles so that she could urinate without having to leave the delivery van,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs purport to bring the class action on behalf of all current and former DSP drivers in the state.
The Denver lawsuit counts as the third case that Seattle’s Terrell Marshall Law Group has brought against Amazon, said managing partner Toby Marshall. One is ongoing in Washington State, and another was settled in 2021 for $8.2 million on behalf of 3,700 Washington drivers.
He called the latter lawsuit “basically identical” to the Denver lawsuit. “I’m afraid to say it’s not unusual at all,” Marshall said.
He suggested a potential solution to this problem: hiring more drivers at Amazon. Marshall pointed to the largest expense for companies as labor, “and, so, that’s the place that they try to squeeze extra profit, extra earnings out of employees.”
“I think a lot of people just don’t recognize what these drivers are going through,” Marshall said in a phone interview.
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