In a recent article, the New York Times reported an ongoing and widespread issue within Amazon warehouses involving mishandling leave requests. Employees reporting medical issues, pregnancy, emergencies, and other situations requiring leave have had their requests ignored or otherwise improperly handled, sometimes leading to severe consequences including termination.

According to the New York Times, while Amazon had previously outsourced its Disability and Leave Services Department duties, the company’s rapid growth led to a decision to process leave requests internally. However, the internal organization was reportedly woefully unprepared for the magnitude of the job. According to the article, the department has experienced breakdowns in communication networks, faulty computer systems, and improperly trained HR employees – problems for which Amazon workers pay the price.

Amazon's Leave Request System Leads to Multiple Failures

According to the New York Times, Amazon has been responsible for a host of issues regarding paid and unpaid time off. Sometimes employees with legitimate reasons for leave have been fired, allegedly due to a system error marking them as no-shows. Other times employees on leave were reportedly told they could not return when they were ready, due to computer backlog. There have been reports of doctors’ notes disappearing, and disability payments ceasing for no clear reason.

The New York Times further reports that in 2017, Amazon went so far as to deny proper leave to a woman in the midst of a volatile domestic violence crisis. While Washington law requires that employers allow for intermittent unpaid leave without retaliation in such situations, Amazon reportedly fired her for missing a deadline.

Due to the highly automated nature of Amazon’s communication system, there are reports that it can be nearly impossible for these workers to reach their case managers for help – and once they do reach someone live, the person is sometimes improperly trained. All of this leads to further delays in resolution and payment.

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