Amazon fires two employees who criticized warehouse safety conditions

Amazon has fired two of its employees after they reportedly spoke out about safety conditions in the company’s warehouses.

User experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were both fired last week, according to The Washington Post. 

An Amazon spokesperson told Digital Trends that the company fired these employees for violating its company policies. 

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” the Amazon spokesperson said. “We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

Amazon sign on warehouse
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The company’s policy on external communications prohibits its employees from speaking about the company’s business without formal approval from management, CNBC reported.

The workers told The Washington Post on Tuesday that they believe they were fired because of their outspoken criticism on the company. 

Both women were also members of an employee advocacy group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and have tweeted about Amazon’s warehouse workers in the past, advocating for better working conditions. 

Amazon’s labor practices have been under fire for some time, but its warehouse working conditions are being especially criticized during the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon’s warehouse workers have been deemed as “essential workers,” meaning they must continue working despite widespread social distancing guidelines.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York staged a walkout last month to protest what they believed were lax safety measures by Amazon to protect workers. After the protest, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, the warehouse worker who organized the strike, according to CNBC.

An Amazon spokesperson previously told Digital Trends that Smalls was fired for violating an order to quarantine at home and “putting the health and safety of others at risk.” 

Amazon has also said it is tracking its workers and could fire them if they violate social distancing rules.

U.S. lawmakers have called on Amazon to do more to protects its workers from the coronavirus. Four senators, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos late last month calling for the company to give its warehouse workers benefits. The letter urged Amazon to guarantee sick pay, pay for coronavirus tests, and provide hazard pay for those who work during this time.

After that letter, Amazon that it would raise its overtime pay for warehouse workers from 1.5 times pay to 2 times pay and that it will give up to two weeks of paid sick leave to warehouse workers who have a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis. 

However, workers who do not have a coronavirus diagnosis will not get sick pay, which risks infections spreading among employees who are forced to come to work if they haven’t been tested yet or haven’t gotten coronavirus test results back. 

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