A former Amazon HR employee has come forward with a series of shocking allegations against the firm’s people function.
In an interview with Jacobin Magazine, the anonymous whistle-blower spoke of a series of wrongdoings they experience while working for the tech and retail giant’s HR department.
The shocking claims include: having to talk down suicidal staff, workers’ disability benefits being terminated without notice, and staff on annual leave being sacked after faulty IT systems led bosses to think they were absent without notice.
The employee, who worked for the firm for a year but has since left the role, was tasked with handling employee phone call queries at the company’s Employee Resource Center.
She told Jacobin: “I’m on the phones for thirteen hours a day, and it’s back-to-back calls. People are calling, crying, screaming, cursing me out, suicidal. On my second day, I had a caller who was suicidal and threatening to kill himself.”
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Other example phone calls included staff who had been terminated without notice and being unable to reach their boss to challenge the decision.
The worker also explained that, due to her “high performance” in her HR role, she was assigned extra tasks, which would see her complete gruelling hours, starting anytime from 4am and finishing as late as 10 pm, seven days a week. “At the time, I would go days without eating, because I had to keep working” she sad.
Before long, she was filing for mental health leave herself, Jacobin reported.
“After speaking to my therapist and my primary care physician, they both told me, ‘Do not go back to Amazon, or you will die,’” she told the publication.
Amazon has not commented on the claims.
HR allegations mount
The HR whistle-blower's claims add to a growing list levelled against Amazon in recent months.
In October, the New York Times reported how a bug in Amazon’s HR systems led to workers being fired , and many missing out on months of pay, after applying for leave due to care-giving and medical reasons.
According to one worker, as reported in The Daily Beast, after they went on disability leave they had benefits cut and “lost everything.”
The widespread nature of the case did spark an internal investigation at Amazon as they grappled with trying to understand why their systems were underpaying employees when they took paid and unpaid leave.
In fact, the problem became so widespread that it hit multiple warehouses, as well as office staff, and led company insiders, according to reporting by The Times, to say this was the “gravest human resources issue.”
The issue has also led to the firing of individuals who are facing medical and other life crises.
This occurred after HR’s attendance software mistakenly marked them as no-shows, according to former and current human resources staff members who spoke to The Times under anonymity.
We’re not perfect, Amazon admits
While these new claims related to Amazon’s US operations, the firm has also been rocked by serious HR allegations in the UK recently.
In November, the business issued a fiery response to a worker's union following reports that ambulance call-outs to the retail giant’s UK warehouses surge by nearly 50% in the run-up to Black Friday.
The GMB Union released figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, comprising monthly data from four ambulance trusts that cover major Amazon sites in the North West, the East Midlands, London, and Wales.
The analysis showed that, over a five-year period, November was the worst month for ambulance callouts, with an average of 67. By comparison, April was typically the lowest month for such incidents, with an average of 24.
In a statement demonstrating a clear disconnect between the firm and its unionised employees, Amazon strongly rebuffed GMB’s claims. It also seemingly refused to consider the calls to sit down and discuss the matter with the union, saying it would instead "keep listening" to its UK workforce of 55,000.
“Once again, our critics are using incomplete information that’s without context and designed to intentionally mislead" the spokesperson said, as reported by The Independent.
“We know we’re not perfect and are continuing to get better every day, but the fact is that Amazon has 40% fewer injuries on average compared to other transportation and warehousing businesses in the UK.
“The vast majority of ambulance call outs to our buildings are related to pre-existing conditions, not work-related incidents, and as a responsible employer we will always call an ambulance if someone requires medical attention.”
The spokesperson added: “Rather than arguing with critics who aren’t interested in facts or progress, we’re going to keep listening to our 55,000 employees, taking their feedback, and working hard to keep investing and improving for the long run.”