Over the last eight years, Amazon has faced at least seven lawsuits from pregnant women who worked at Amazon warehouses and say they were fired after the company refused to accommodate their needs during pregnancy, a CNET investigation by Alfred Ng and Ben Fox Rubin has revealed.
Amazon’s vast network of warehouses makes the company one of the nation’s largest employers. And the company has long faced criticism for the grueling requirements imposed on warehouse workers.
A big concern for pregnant workers is limits on bathroom breaks. Amazon’s software tracks everything that happens inside the factory and strictly limits how much “time off task” an employee can take during the day. If a worker hasn’t packed a box or performed another task in five minutes, software sends a supervisor over to investigate.
Former warehouse worker Beverly Rosales says she was allowed just 30 minutes off during a 10-hour shift, and her area of the warehouse was a five-minute walk from the nearest bathroom. That meant she was effectively only allowed three bathroom breaks per day—and that was if she hustled.
Rosales says the policy became untenable once she became pregnant. She told supervisors she needed more time to visit the restroom but the company wouldn’t give her more time—nor would it let her transfer to a part of the warehouse that was closer to the restroom. She says managers complained about her bathroom breaks and reduced productivity—and ultimately fired her less than two months after she told them about her pregnancy.
“Amazon is an equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to offering an inclusive working environment which accommodates employees of all backgrounds and abilities,” an Amazon spokesperson wrote by email. “We are committed to continual improvement and regularly review our processes to ensure full support of employees seeking accommodations, pregnant or otherwise.”
“Our associates are allowed to use the restroom whenever needed and we do not monitor restroom breaks,” the Amazon spokesperson wrote, adding that “bathrooms are easily accessible from any point within a fulfillment center.”
Take three days off
But a number of women dispute that. One of them visited the emergency room with the flu while pregnant in 2017 and was advised to take three days off to recover. Her lawsuit charges that a human resources representative told her that Amazon “does not accept doctor’s notes” and fired her four days later.
Other women say that Amazon refused to honor doctors’ instructions that they avoid climbing stairs or ladders or lifting objects heavier than 20 pounds.
Amazon is far from the only big company facing these kinds of accusations. CNET notes that Walmart, one of Amazon’s biggest competitors, is facing a lawsuit from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for discriminating against pregnant women in a Wisconsin distribution center.
Amazon’s policies regarding bathroom breaks have also attracted criticism and at least one lawsuit from workers who are not pregnant woman. A male call-center worker sued Amazonearlier this year because he suffers from Crohn’s disease, which necessitates frequent bathroom breaks.
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