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Warehouse Workers Fight Back

Warehouse and logistics providers including Amazon and XPO have been on the receiving end of lawsuits recently. The claims alleged include unpaid overtime, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, and even wrongful death. In October, eBay filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging Amazon has a scheme to steal its top sellers. While this particular lawsuit features two billion-dollar juggernauts going head-to-head, these other lawsuits are by former Amazon employees.

The most recent incident involving Amazon regards an issue of religious discrimination. As reported by Gizmodo, a protest arose in the small town of Shakopee, Minnesota after allegations that Amazon was restricting the religious freedom of its workers in that warehouse, many of whom are Muslim. As previously mentioned, Amazon’s strict productivity rules often restrict people from even going to the restroom, let alone making time for prayer. The protest aimed to pressure Amazon to improve working conditions and allow for religious expression for their workers in the warehouses. Another goal of the protest was to push Amazon to create a fund that addresses racial disparities in the community and implement an independent review body for HR complaints.

Rumors are swirling regarding Amazon distribution factories and their conditions. Senator Bernie Sanders took direct aim at the Jeff Bezos-owned company over these workplace conditions. Sanders pointed out bad working conditions and low wages and introduced a bill to force companies like Amazon to pay their workers higher wages. One in three Amazon workers is allegedly on food stamps, and the company employs over half a million people, many in low wage positions.

After these allegations about workplace conditions began, writer James Bloodworth went undercover to work at a distribution facility. In his article for The Guardian, Bloodworth, who had worked at a warehouse prior, stated that this warehouse was different: “this was a workplace environment in which decency, respect, and dignity were absent.”

Bloodworth goes on to discuss the policies in place at Amazon that lead many workers to avoid going to the restroom and using a bottle instead. Employees are scared to take bathroom breaks for fear of not meeting productivity goals.

Another rumor circling about Amazon is its poor treatment of employees injured on the job that need to take leave or take time off. Bloodworth discusses Amazon’s point system, which allegedly gives disciplinary points to a worker every time they miss productivity targets or clock in late. He states that even talking to co-workers could result in receiving a point. Six points results in termination. On one occasion, Bloodworth was sick and notified the job that he would not be in that day due to illness. He was given a point despite giving prior notification and despite what could have been a valid justification.

In another article by The Guardian, injuries are the main focus. The article alleges that employees who are hurt on the job are often left without pay and often, without jobs. Amazon made the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “dirty dozen” list of the most dangerous places to work in the United States. The company made the list due to its alleged reputation of unsafe working conditions and its alleged emphasis on productivity over safety. The company has simply responded to these allegations by stating that they are “proud” of their safety record.

In Texas, state and federal law generally prohibit treating employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees because of their disabilities, because they are regarded as disabled, or because they filed a worker’s compensation claims for injuries sustained in the workplace.  Disabled or injured employees have the right to be safe and secure in their work.  When employers do not follow the law, legal recourse may be appropriate.