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Amazon workers are left to fight for medical benefits and payment after sustaining injuries at the workplace while Jeff Bezos becomes richer.
Amazon warehouse workers are left alone to suffer after sustaining injuries in the workplace, often being unable to work or find other means of income, an investigative report by The Guardian revealed.
While Jeff Bezos became the wealthiest person in the world, inhuman working conditions often leave the workers with serious injuries and they have to fight for months to receive benefits and medical care from the company.
“It’s been a long 17 months. I ended up losing everything. I lost my apartment. I had to move back home to New Jersey,” Michelle Quinones, 27, told her story to The Guardian.
Quinones was working at Fort Worth, Texas, in an Amazon Fulfillment Centre in July 2017 as an order picker. She had to spend long hours to meet mandatory rates for filling orders when she developed carpal tunnel symptoms. When she went to the warehouse Amcare clinic, she was given minimum care and sent back to work after being treated briefly.
In November 2017, her wrist required surgery which Amazon’s workers’ compensation insurer did not authorize until February 2019. That, too, was achieved after a prolonged court battle.
When she initially informed the company of her injury, they ordered her to return to work against her doctor’s orders. She was not even offered a different assignment to accommodate her health conditions.
Finally, they changed her assignment in December 2018, just before Quinones’ workers’ compensation court date against Amazon was scheduled.
She was also surveilled upon by a private investigator hired by the Amazon workers’ compensation insurer, Sedgwick, to try to disprove her injury by determining her activity level.
“We follow all Texas state workers’ compensation laws, and this case is no different. Michelle is no longer employed by Amazon but continues to have a case manager to help navigate ongoing discussions,” an Amazon representative told the media organization.
Kim Wyatt, a workers’ compensation lawyer in Texas who represented Quinones, has also represented many Amazon workers with similar issues.
“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 Wyatt.
Due to its unsafe work environment, Amazon was listed on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “dirty dozen” i.e., one of the most dangerous places to work in the United States.
Mistreatments are not only exclusively reserved for warehouse workers. A former human resources executive at Amazon headquarters in Seattle died after a spinal injury during his business trip. After being denied benefit payments and requests for short-term disability benefits, he wrote to Jeff Bezos. Bezos promised that issues would be fixed but he died later that same month after suffering a heart attack at 53-years-old.
“It’s not just the warehouse workers who are being mistreated. Ronald was an HR executive. This was a high salary position,” said Michael Kapin, the attorney representing Ashley’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Amazon.
“He was denied his short-term disability benefits and essentially had to go out of pocket for his expenses when he was entitled to these benefits, which we believe led to the stress that ultimately caused the heart attack.”
An Amazon representative said that workers are “the heart and soul of our operations and we work hard to ensure they are provided a safe, comfortable and modern work environment.”