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Iraq War vet and two women among Colorado delivery drivers suing Amazon, saying they had to pee in bottles

Colorado delivery drivers suing Amazon, saying they had to pee in bottles
Colorado delivery drivers suing Amazon, saying they had to pee in bottles 00:40

Three Amazon delivery drivers in Colorado have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the tech giant over what the suit alleges are poor working conditions, CBS Colorado's Austen Erblat reports.

The 16-page suit -- filed last week in Denver District Court -- alleges that drivers had to urinate in bottles and defecate in dog waste bags in their delivery vans to ensure that they didn't face discipline for failing to stay on pace with their deliveries.

It goes on to allege Amazon violated Colorado's mandate that employers provide workers with paid rest breaks every four hours.

The company, according to the drivers, is "maintaining work policies that require its delivery drivers in Colorado to urinate in bottles in the back of delivery vans, defecate in bags, and, in many cases, to restrain themselves from using the bathroom at risk of serious health consequences. Amazon  operates this scheme through harsh work quotas and elaborate tracking and workplace surveillance technology that make it impossible for Amazon delivery drivers to fulfill basic human needs while on the job."

An Associated Press file photo shows an Amazon  delivery van Sept. 1, 2021 in Denver. David Zalubowski / AP

"We want to make it clear that we encourage our Delivery Service Partners to support their drivers. 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," Amazon spokesperson Simone Griffin said in a statement.

The company has faced a number of similar allegations in other states and in the U.K., alleging similar working conditions, both among drivers and warehouse workers, as well as allegations of union-busting. Amazon initially denied those claims, but then apologized for one of the instances of denying them.

In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Protection Bureau ruled that Amazon kept $62 million in tips intended for drivers and ordered the company to pay the tips to drivers.

The drivers are employed by "Delivery Service Partners," which contracts with Amazon, but those DSPs, "must acquiesce to Amazon's control over nearly every aspect of their business. Amazon sets the terms of each DSP's work through comprehensive non-negotiable contracts," according to the lawsuit.

"I fought for this country in Iraq, but I had an easier time going to the bathroom in a combat zone than I did while working for Amazon, Ryan Schilling, one of the three drivers suing Amazon, said in a statement. "Twice I've had to defecate so badly that I've had to use dog waste bags in the back of delivery vans. I knew that if I tried to stop to go to a gas station, I'd get yelled at and maybe lose my job. What choice do Amazon drivers have?"

"As a woman, I can't just easily pee in a bottle," said plaintiff Leah Cross. "When I worked for Amazon, I had to bring a change of clothes in case I peed my pants while trying to hit Amazon's delivery metrics. I was told I couldn't even stop to pick up some sanitary products. With this lawsuit, I'm fighting for Amazon to treat humans like humans."

The three drivers are represented by the non-profit Towards Justice, the Seattle-based Terrell Marshall Law Group LLC, and non-profit Public Justice. 

"Workplace health and safety laws protect the right to reasonable bathroom access, but workers have suffered from underenforcement of those protections for decades," Towards Justice Executive Director David Seligman said in a statement. "It's a moral abomination that in 2023, people working at one of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the history of the world have to bring a change of clothes to work in case they pee themselves."

The drivers are seeking unpaid wages, penalties and a change in Amazon's policies and, according to the lawsuit, want Amazon to "allow their drivers the dignity of being able to meet their basic human needs."

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