Amazon is the second-largest retail business in the world, and made its founder Jeff Bezos the richest man in modern history. But as more information comes out, it becomes more apparent that this massive wealth stands very much on the backs of workers.
Also, it helps that the company doesn’t pay taxes.
Amazon is accused of denying reasonable accommodations required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to its employees. Amazon employees are suicidal at alarming rates due in part to their brutal working conditions. Now, new information suggests that Amazon withholds workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries.
Amazon is the first name on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “Dirty Dozen” — the worst places to work in America.
A Guardian investigation found numerous cases describing Amazon workers who sustained workplace injuries being left without compensation or work, left to fight for months for medical care, and pushed back on the job against medical orders.
One woman, Michelle Quinones, developed carpal tunnel syndrome working as a picker for Amazon at a Texas warehouse. The company did not offer her another position — she was made to come back as a picker just months after her diagnosis. Amazon’s workers compensation insurer Sedgwick even hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance on Quinones in an attempt to disprove her injury claim.
Despite being diagnosed in 2017, Quinones only got approved for workers compensation and surgery for her carpal tunnel this February, after more than a year of court battles.
“We follow all Texas state workers’ compensation laws, and this case is no different,” Amazon told the Guardian. “Michelle is no longer employed by Amazon but continues to have a case manager to help navigate ongoing discussions.”
It should be noted that in Texas, Amazon would’ve been required to deny Quinones’ claim or start paying benefits within fifteen days. Sedgwick’s investigators were monitoring Quinones to disprove her claims five months after her diagnosis but a full year before Amazon awarded benefits.
“A lot of the cases we see with Amazon are repetitive injury cases. Basically people are just a component to machine industry of mass production,” said Kim Wyatt, a Texas workers’ compensation attorney that represented Quinones and other Amazon employees.
Employees at Amazon see the company’s attitude toward them as pieces of the machine as well. “We are not robots” has become one rallying cry of protesting Amazon employees.
“We are not robots. We are human beings. We cannot come into work after only four hours of sleep and be expected to be fully energized and ready to work. That’s impossible,” said picker Rashad Long. “I feel like all the company cares about is getting their products out to the customers as quickly humanly as possible, no matter what that means for us workers in the end.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.