Amazon fires two employees critical of warehouse working conditions

FILE PHOTO:  Signage is seen at an Amazon facility in Bethpage on Long Island in New York
FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at an Amazon facility in Bethpage on Long Island in New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo)


Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> said on Tuesday it terminated two employees, who criticized the working conditions at the e-commerce giant’s warehouses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, for “repeatedly violating internal policies”.

The termination of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, who worked as user-experience designers in Seattle, came in a couple of weeks after the company fired another employee Christian Smalls for raising health and safety concerns for people laboring through the outbreak.

The Seattle-based firm has been facing public scrutiny over safety and working conditions of warehouse, delivery and retail gig workers in the United States after cases of COVID-19 were reported in some of its facilities. Amazon workers have also protested in other countries.

Amazon said it supported “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 world’s largest online retailer is racing to update safety protocols, keep warehouses functional and ship essential goods to shoppers who have been told by their governments to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Last month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city’s Human Rights Commission to open an investigation to look into Christian Smalls’ allegations.

Five Democratic lawmakers also wrote a letter to the company last week questioning the allegations.

The Washington Post, which first reported the story (https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/13/amazon-workers-fired), identified the two employees as members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an employee climate group that has been vocal in raising concerns over protecting warehouse staff.