Amazon, Lyft Putting Pressure on Drivers Amid Coronavirus Fears
Amazon is encouraging employees at its Seattle headquarters to work from home this month after a worker was diagnosed with coronavirus. “We’re supporting the affected employee,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNN, as technology’s biggest companies take increasing measures to insulate staff from COVID-19.
At the same time, Amazon Flex drivers, gig workers who complete last-mile Amazon deliveries, were told to stay home if they feel sick—without pay.
“Wash your hands frequently,” they were advised in a memo sent by Amazon on Friday and reviewed by OneZero, a request that may be hard for Flex drivers to fulfill when they have so little time to meet delivery quotas. (In the past, some have reported urinating in water bottles just to make deliveries on schedule.) Workers who have been “within 6ft of a person with a confirmed case [of COVID-19]” — the distance that coronavirus can travel through the air — should email a support line, the memo adds.
Confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 100,000 around the world, and at least 60 have been reported in California. Gig workers at Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and other technology platforms say they’re being excluded from Silicon Valley’s efforts to cocoon itself from the disease. While companies were urging employees in their offices to work remotely and use paid sick leave if they feel ill — and Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have announced they will continue paying hourly contract workers regular wages to accommodate working from home — memos sent to gig workers did not offer similar support.
Because they are classified as independent contractors, gig workers are not covered by the same laws that require some companies to offer their employees health insurance. “It would cost me about $100 to see a doctor with my current health insurance,” said Alameda-based Lyft driver Edan Alva. Offering sick leave may be used as evidence that gig economy companies are treating contractors as employees, so they may be hesitant to compensate workers who take time off to…