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Amazon in the dock

by on24 June 2024

Unlawful Employee Termination

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of the United States has lodged a formal complaint against the e-commerce behemoth Amazon.

According to the Verge Amazon is accused of illicitly disciplining and ultimately dismissing an employee who played a pivotal role in orchestrating walkouts in May.

These walkouts directly responded to Amazon’s imposition of new directives mandating employees to return to the office three days a week, a policy instituted earlier last year.

The walkouts were not isolated; they were preceded by a groundswell of dissent, with thousands of Amazon employees signing petitions to voice their opposition to the new mandate.

 Despite the palpable unrest and subsequent walkouts, Andy Jassy, Amazon CEO, doubled down on the company’s stance in a meeting in August 2023, reinforcing the expectation for employees to spend the majority of their workweek on-site.

The NLRB’s complaint delves deeper into the repercussions faced by employees involved in the walkouts.

It alleges that Amazon resorted to “interrogation” tactics via its internal communication platform, Chime, to question employees about their participation in the protest. The employee at the centre of this controversy was subjected to a performance improvement plan following their involvement in the walkout and was later presented with an ultimatum.

Workers were told to accept a severance package equivalent to nine weeks’ salary in exchange for their resignation or face termination.

 The NLRB’s legal team asserts that these actions were retaliatory, aimed at quashing the employee’s efforts in organising the walkout and, by extension, intended to dissuade other employees from engaging in similar “protected, concerted activities.”

The NLRB’s general counsel is demanding various remedial measures from Amazon. These include financial compensation for the aggrieved employee to cover the damages incurred and expenses related to job searching and employment.

Additionally, the counsel seeks a formal letter of apology and the dissemination of a “Notice to Employees” across Amazon’s national facilities, to be shared electronically and articulated by an Amazon representative during a recorded video conference.

In a rebuttal, Amazon maintains that the disciplinary actions taken were not linked to the employee’s activism against the return-to-work policies.

A spokesperson for Amazon told The Verge that the employee in question had a consistent track record of underperformance spanning nearly a year, marked by a failure to fulfil assigned projects. Despite considerable support and coaching, the employee’s performance did not improve, leading to their decision to part ways with the company.

Last modified on 24 June 2024
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