Amazon Sacks Employees Who Questioned Pandemic Safety Measures

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Amazon is reported to have sacked three employees, two of whom had recently made public statements questioning Amazon’s pandemic safety measures and one who had tried to organise better working conditions.

User Experience Designers

The two ‘user experience designers’ who were sacked by Amazon this week, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, had already been the subject of news coverage, back at the end of 2019, as alleged leading members of a group known as ‘Amazon Employees for Climate Justice’ which expressed concerns about Amazon’s carbon footprint.  In January, both employees were reported to have been told that they had violated Amazon’s external communications policy, and Amazon’s reason for finally sacking them is reported to be repeated violations of internal policies.

Warehouse Worker Sacked

The other employee recently sacked is (former) warehouse worker Bashir Mohamed, who Amazon is reported to have dismissed for “inappropriate language, behaviour, and violating social distancing guidelines.”  Mr Mohammed (in Minnesota) is reported to have been pushing for better site cleaning and protective measures for Amazon employees during the pandemic.

Earlier

Back in March, Christian Smalls, a worker who organised a strike over safety conditions and joined a demonstration at Amazon’s New York fulfilment centre was also sacked. Those involved in the strike were pushing for Amazon to offer sick pay to all warehouse workers and to temporarily close and give a deep clean to all warehouses where there had been COVID-19 cases.  Amazon allegedly claims that it sacked Mr Small because he had close contact with an associate who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that Mr Small didn’t comply with a request to say at home (with pay) for 14 days.

Blog

Some would say coincidentally, as of 14 April, Amazon’s blog (‘about Amazon’), is running daily updates about how it is supporting employees, helping its customers and community relief, and contributing to research during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A previous post (2nd April) focuses on how Amazon is working to protect its employees with measures such as temperature checks, providing disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and PPE, plus daily audits of its new health and safety measures.

Update – 15 April

Amazon has closed its warehouses in France for all but essential deliveries, until at least 20 April, following a court order. The company was taken to court by French trade unions who claimed that workers were being made to work in close proximity to one another and, therefore, were being put at risk. The court appears to have agreed and has stated that the company “failed to recognise its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon appears to have made the news many times now over employees who publicly criticise safety and/or working conditions in company premises, and who end up being sacked for violations of one of many internal policies. Large companies with well-known billionaire owners are often the subject of news stories, not all of which are good, but the theme of how worker relations is handled appears to be a common one for Amazon recently and has drawn questions and concerns from several U.S. senators. The pandemic has put many companies in the spotlight over how well employees are being protected, and sackings now could lead to lawsuits and more bad publicity further down the line.

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