Amazon workers are accusing the tech giant of refusing to pay them when they get injured on the job, pushing them into homelessness.
One of these workers, 49-year-old Vickie Shannon Allen, alleged she was working at a broken workstation in an Amazon warehouse in Texas when she injured her back. After Amazon’s medical triage gave her nothing but a heating pad to use on her back, she would go home without pay daily because she couldn’t do her job. Still, Allen was spending her own money to drive 60 miles one way every day just for the company to send her home.
“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,” she explained.
After she finally got workers' compensation and went to physical therapy, she returned to work, only to be injured again while on the same, unfixed workstation.
She was eventually dropped from Amazon’s workers’ compensation insurer and is now homeless and living in her car. While the company offered her a buyout of $3,500, she said she refused because that would have involved her signing a non-disclosure agreement.
“They cost me my home, they screwed me over and over, and I go days without eating,” she said.
According to a lawsuit filed against Amazon, 43-year-old Bryan Hill suffered something similar.
The documents claimed he hurt his back on the job and was told by a manager he was too young to have back problems. He said he found out he was fired from an internal Amazon website.
His attorney, Miguel Bouzas, said he is hopeful they will be able to get Hill rightful compensation.
“It’s been scheduled for mediation in September, and we’re in a holding pattern until then,” he said.
Some of the workers injured while on the job alleged they were offered less physically stressful positions if only they “signed a form stating his injuries occurred prior to working at Amazon,” even though many of the workplace accidents caused long-lasting damage to their bodies.
Christina Miano-Wilburn said her short-term disability was cut at five weeks after she was told it would last for 26 weeks. Then, she was fired and lost her house.
Others, like Lindsai Florence Johnson, told reporters that they quit before they were injured out of fear. She reportedly fell ill and was taken away in an ambulance while working at an Amazon fulfillment center in San Bernardino, California. After the April incident, she quit in May.
“Not all people report injuries because they are scared to get taken off their job or told they can’t work over there anymore,” she said. “I have many times come home with bruises from work at Amazon and I experienced my first hernia there.”
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Melanie Etches said that worker safety is their No. 1 priority.
“While any serious incident is one too many, we learn and improve our programs working to prevent future incidents,” she said.
As Splinternews explained, if the company is eventually found guilty of making it hard for many of its workers to file workers' compensation claims while ignoring their complaints, then it is clear that Amazon is holding medical care and pay hostage in order to force workers to sign agreements stating they will not publicly attack the company in exchange for financial help. This type of practice would not fly in a court of law if workers decided to take action.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Mike Segar