The Labor Commissioner’s Office said that Santa Ana-based Green Messengers Inc., which worked as a contractor for Amazon.com Services in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, repeatedly underpaid delivery drivers, resulting in “frequent minimum wage, overtime, meal break, rest period and split-shift violations.”
The office held Amazon.com Services responsible as well under a California law passed in 2015 that holds clients responsible for labor law violations of subcontractors.
“Contracting out services does not release employers from their duty to ensure workers are being legally compensated,” said California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “In this case, both Green Messengers and Amazon.com Services are responsible for the wage theft that these workers suffered.”
The citations total $6,454,110, with $5,304,768 owed to 718 workers affected. The amount payable to workers includes $3,377,988 in liquidated damages and waiting time penalties; $762,850 in penalty assessments for not providing proper wage statements; $882,735 for split-shift, meal and rest break premiums; and $281,195 for minimum wage, overtime and contract wages.
In addition, Green Messengers was fined $1,149,342 in civil penalties owed to the state.
“The California Labor Commissioner is investigating an independent business we previously partnered with. We were not aware of the investigation and are appealing the citation,” Amazon spokesperson Leah Seay told Modern Shipper.
Under California’s appeal process, the Labor Commissioner’s Office will have a hearing officer hear the appeal and either affirm, modify or dismiss the citations.
The state opened an investigation in June 2019 after receiving complaints of labor law violations, it said. The investigation, which covered a time period between April 2018 and January 2020, found that Green Messengers drivers were scheduled for 10-hour workdays, but frequently exceeded that due to the amount of packages to be delivered. However, the company failed to reimburse the drivers for this additional time, which often required them to work through required meal and rest breaks and work longer than 11 hours in a day.
Under California labor code, employees that work more than five hours must be provided a meal or rest period of 30 minutes.
Workers posting reviews on the job board Indeed.com complained about the conditions at Green Messengers. “Long routes with insane amounts of stops in apartment complexes, locked gate buildings you can get locked in. No time to go to actual restrooms,” wrote one poster. Another said the company was a “bit unorganized in how to hand out hours.”
“The company sucks, they don’t care about the drivers. The management is stupid and disorganized. Amazon ended their contact with them and left many drivers without jobs,” wrote yet another on Nov. 30, 2019.
Green Messengers filed a WARN Act notice with the state of California on Sept. 30, 2019, citing a permanent closing of the business as of Dec. 1, 2019. The WARN Act, which is used to notify states of large-scale layoffs, said 44 employees would be affected.
When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid minimum wages plus interest. Waiting time penalties are imposed when the employer intentionally fails to pay all wages due to the employee at the time of separation, the Labor Commissioner’s Office said. This penalty is calculated by taking the employee’s daily rate of pay and multiplying it by the number of days the employee was not paid, up to a maximum of 30 days.