A new report from the Guardian details the fate of Amazon workers who get injured on the job and can’t keep up with its unrelenting pace. It reveals a horrifying pattern of Amazon refusing to file employees worker’s compensation and cutting off paid leave unexpectedly. They then reportedly pressure employees to sign non-disclosure agreements or statements saying they weren’t injured on the job, in exchange for compensation.
One woman who is now homeless, the 49-year old Vickie Shannon Allen, injured her back working at a broken workstation in an Amazon warehouse in Texas last year. But that was just the beginning of Allen’s problems. From the Guardian:
Over the course of a few weeks, Amazon’s medical triage area gave her use of a heating pad to use on her back, while Amazon management sent her home each day without pay until Allen pushed for workers compensation.
“I tried to work again, but I couldn’t stretch my right arm out and I’m right-handed. So I was having a hard time keeping up. This went on for about three weeks,” Allen said. Despite not getting paid, Allen was spending her own money to drive 60 miles one way to the warehouse each day just to be sent home.
Once on workers compensation, Allen started going to physical therapy. In January 2018, she returned to work and injured herself again on the same workstation that still was not fixed.
Allen said she was later dropped as a patient by the workers’ compensation insurer Amazon uses. She is now homeless, living in her car in the parking lot in front of the Amazon warehouse. Amazon reportedly offered her a buyout of $3,500, which she declined, as she would have had to sign an NDA.
Allen is far from the only one who has allegedly experienced mistreatment and disregard after being injured on the job at Amazon.
In April 2018, 43-year-old Bryan Hill of Seffner, Florida filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging managers fired him for hurting his back on the job and failed to file a workers compensation claim once his injury was reported. “It’s been scheduled for mediation in September, and we’re in a holding pattern until then,” said Miguel Bouzas, the attorney representing Hill in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Hill was told by a manager he was too young to have back problems, and he was fired before Amazon Human Resources would authorize a doctor visit.
At an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Pennsylvania, one former employee was fired five weeks after getting injured on the job. “I was on a ladder and someone came flying into the area I was in, hit the ladder causing me to fall, and I landed on my back and left leg,” said Christina Miano-Wilburn. Her back is permanently injured from the incident. “They refused to give me the paperwork for workmen’s comp. They cut my short term disability after five weeks. I was supposed to get it for 26 weeks.”
Miano-Wilburn was notified of her job termination through a letter in the mail in May 2017 after working at Amazon for two years. She lost her home shortly after being fired from Amazon.
Along with Allen, another former employee who injured his knees on the job reports that Amazon would allow him to work a less physically stressful job if he “signed a form stating his injuries occurred prior to working at Amazon.”
A spokesperson for Amazon told the Guardian that the company is proud of its record on worker safety, which she described as Amazon’s “number one priority,” adding, “While any serious incident is one too many, we learn and improve our programs working to prevent future incidents.”
Yet in April, Amazon was listed as one of the top twelve most dangerous places to work in the U.S. by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. This month, Jeff Bezos’ net worth exceeded $150 billion, making him the richest man of all time. Someone’s paying for that extreme, absurd wealth—and it sure isn’t Bezos.
What Amazon is reportedly doing here is holding medical care and pay hostage until their workers are desperate enough to promise to not disparage the company in exchange for relief. This is evil. There’s just no other word for it.