Amazon and its employees have had a volatile relationship. Despite the incredibly profitable company aiming to be the “Earth’s best employer,” its shortcomings have been widely discussed.
Alongside the rapid growth of Amazon, there have been complaints that warehouse staff have been overworked and delivery drivers have been said to have to urinate in bottles to meet their targets.
Evidently, becoming the world’s best employer is not without its complications and a new report has found other areas where the HR systems that Amazon uses have left employees in dire situations.
After giving birth last year, Tara Jones, an Amazon warehouse worker in Oklahoma, found that she had been paid just $90 instead of the $540 she expected.
Jones told the New York Times that she asked about her paycheck as she desperately needed it.
This led to an internal investigation, and it was found that 79 of Amazon’s warehouse employees have potentially been affected by a HR system error that would have left them underpaid.
Kelly Nantel, a company spokeswoman, has said Amazon is still identifying and repaying employees.
However, HR problems have also led to issues for both its blue and white-collar staff. A report by the New York Times has found that there is a catalog of regulation mistakes that have impacted employees.
Broken HR systems
A key issue that has been identified is that the holiday and leave system at Amazon is not working properly. In fact, it has led to many on disability leave being underpaid.
Bethany Reyes, who was recently put in charge of fixing the leave system, told the New York Times that, “a lot of times, because we’ve optimized for the customer experience, we’ve been focused on that”.
Despite this, Reyes has stressed that Amazon is working to fix its HR issues.
The situation within Amazon led to an internal correspondence where the company administrators warned of “inadequate service levels, deficient processes” and systems that are “prone to delay and error”.
In an external assessment last year, it was found that back-office HR “do not understand” the process for taking leave. So much so that they frequently gave incorrect information to workers.
The assessment discovered a 29-minute call where a member of the HR team told an employee that they were too recently hired to qualify for short-term disability leave when workers are in fact eligible from day one.
These issues led to the likes of James Watts, 54, who worked at Amazon in Chattanooga, to lose benefits while he was on disability leave. Watts was on leave after repeated heart attacks and strokes and the loss of his disability benefits led to him having his car repossessed.
Ultimately, Watts and his wife sold their wedding rings so they could afford to buy food and pay medical bills. Several months later, the Amazon benefits restarted without any explanation.
The company is also being taken to court because of what appears to be a lack of understanding when it comes to state law. Leslie Tullis faced a domestic violence crisis in 2017 and requested unpaid leave that employers are legally obliged to offer under Washington State law to protect victims.
Unfortunately, Amazon didn’t seem to realize that this was a legal requirement and Tullis claims her bosses became visibly frustrated with her for having time off.
Tullis was ultimately fired, and she alleges it was because of the paid time she had taken away from work. Amazon has said she was fired because her performance worsened while she was not on leave.
Reyes has said that with improved training, her teams could now resolve more than nine out of ten issues on the first call.
Nonetheless, given the numerous cases of incorrect payments and accusations of Amazon breaking state regulations, many will be concerned about the HR practices of the company.
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