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Amazon software glitches reportedly firing workers who apply for medical leave

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Amazon has been shortchanging employees who apply for medical leave or firing them as “no shows” during the pandemic because of software glitches and human error, according to an explosive report.

The e-commerce giant is still trying to fix the problem — which was exposed in a New York Times report in June — and identify employees who were wronged, a spokesperson for the company told the publication.

Employees at warehouses and the company’s Seattle headquarters reportedly faced a nightmare of red tape when they applied for medical leave, including for the birth of a child or medical crisis. In some cases, they were erroneously fired for not showing up to work which immediately stopped their paychecks, according to the report, which cited confidential internal documents.

The problem is more widespread than previously reported, and was described by Amazon insiders as one of “gravest human resource problems,” affecting its 1.3 million employees, according to the report.

In some cases, employees who applied for temporary leave found that Amazon had stopped their paychecks.
REUTERS

The company is scrambling to address the problem, appointing executive Bethany Reyes to spearhead the initiative, which includes hiring hundreds of human resource reps and training them to be more empathetic, according to the report.

Attendance software mistakenly marked employees who’d been approved for leave as “no-shows” while doctors notes disappeared and employees were directed to call centers in in Costa Rica, India and Las Vegas, the report states.

The exterior of a huge Amazon factory
The online behemoth has been accused of stinting on worker-safety measures at some fulfillment centers.

These problems, Reyes told The Times, are “the most dire issue you could have.”

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson.

“The NY Times article suggests these issues are wide-spread and ongoing. They are not,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said. “In fact, the controls we’ve implemented over the last 18 months have resulted in less than 1 percent of people experiencing an issue while being on paid leave. Certainly the unprecedented nature of COVID did put a strain on our system’s ability to keep pace with demand and we’ve been hard at work investing and inventing to do better every day.”

Amazon has struggled with its public image during the pandemic, in which it was accused of treating its warehouse workers callously without regard for their safety during the height of COVID-19 outbreak. 

Although it beat an organizing effort at an Alabama warehouse earlier this year, Amazon has been called out by regulators, legislators and employees around the world for treating its workers poorly, by emphasizing speed and efficiency at the expense of employees’ well being.

A woman works in an Amazon factory
Amazon’s need for speed has allegedly put a strain on workers — and contributed to employee activism.
AFP via Getty Images

Amazon is facing another labor push at a warehouse in Staten Island, NY.

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