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Amazon punishes employees for being sick?

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Amazon LogoIn a recent Times Online article, it has been revealed that Amazon may infact punish employees for being sick. At the Bedfordshire, UK warehouse the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor’s note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.Amazon is not the first company to assign points to infractions. At AT&T in the United States, employees who are absent from work earn “occurences.” Too many occurences and you face diciplinary action up to and including dismissal. However, a doctors note can turn an unexcused absence into an excused absence. Although, it is still an occurence. 

The article goes on to outline other workplace “atrocities” such as:

  • Made to work a compulsory 10½hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.
  • Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as “ridiculous”. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.
  • Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.
  • Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.
  • Given only one break of 15 minutes and another of 20 minutes per eight-hour shift and told they had to get permission to go to the toilet. Amazon said workers wanted the shorter breaks in exchange for shorter shifts.

One has to remember that this is at the UK warehouse. I haven’t heard good or bad about any of their warehouses in the United States. 

I have actually worked in a shipping warehouse and you do have to be fast on your feet. The way the one I worked at operated was that you were given a “pick sheet” with a list of items to go on a pallet. You ran around the warehouse with your pallet jack and pallet. You grabbed items off the shelf, slapped a sticker on them and put them on the pallet. You had to get X number of items per day. You spent a lot of time walk (or running) up and down isles getting items to put on the pallet and hoped you got your numbers.

Is what they are doing “corporate bullying” as one commentor wrote? Some of the incidents described in the article do sound harsh. Perhaps more employees on payroll would help alleviate the number of hours worked and the mandatory overtime. I imagine it is not an easy job. They have to move a lot of products. Are the things being alleged at the UK warehouse typical of what is going on at other warehouses?

If you work, or have worked for Amazon, we would love to hear from you. Maybe you know someone who works for Amazon? Post a comment, too! What do you think about the Times Article? Is it being unfair or spot on?