United for Respect released new report examining Amazon’s failure to provide timely, sufficient accommodations for workers with injuries, disabilities

Amazon workers held press briefing, met with elected officials in Washington, D.C to announce campaign, advocate for solutions 

NATIONWIDE — Amazon workers in partnership with United for Respect and the Athena Coalition announced during a press briefing Wednesday the launch of a new campaign centered around the company’s failure to provide timely, transparent, and sufficient accommodations for workers with injuries or disabilities, despite its responsibility to do so under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The briefing also announced the release of a new report by United for Respect detailing the company’s failures to accommodate workers, as well as first-hand accounts from Amazon workers on their struggles to receive accommodations from the company.

At the briefing, associates shared their experiences navigating Amazon’s flawed accommodations system that leaves workers who come to Amazon with preexisting disabilities, or who sustain injuries on the job, with little to no support needed to work efficiently and safely. At Amazon, workers face injuries at twice the rate of other warehouses, a result of the excessive work pace and productivity demands. Often when these injured workers seek accommodations they are ignored, retaliated against, and sometimes even terminated for needing an accommodation in order to do their job.

“Many facilities, like mine, are operating short-staffed, making it impossible for people to work safely. And when we get injured as a result of this environment, it’s a never-ending struggle to get accommodated or we risk getting injured again because the company delays or ignores the accommodations,” said Denise Kohr, a current Amazon warehouse worker who injured her shoulder due to inhumane working conditions at the company. 

“My chronic knee pain is so painful that I can’t bend my knee and it sometimes gives out, potentially causing me to fall down. And I can’t stand for long periods because I will feel extreme pain in my back,” said Lanita Hammons, a current Amazon warehouse worker with chronic pain who was refused accommodations. “I was always honest about my abilities, I expected the same honesty back. Instead, I was faced with people who were not properly trained on how to provide accommodations support to people with disabilities.”

The campaign comes as Amazon workers across the country organize for better workplaces and call on the company to address their disturbingly high injury rates. As part of the new campaign, Amazon associates are demanding:

  • Amazon act in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Accommodations requests are granted immediately upon request
  • Requests are processed in a transparent and collaborative manner
  • Training for all Amazon managers and workers on workplace accommodation processes and disability rights
  • On-site specialists at every facility to ensure accommodations requests are processed accurately and in a timely manner
  • Protection from retaliation for workers who request an accommodation

“This is the second largest private employer in the country. This is a very sophisticated operation. From what I have seen in my years of advocacy is that this is not an accident. This is their business model. The way this company is able to expand and grow and continue to profit is by treating its workers as if they are not individuals deserving of respect,” said Frank Kearl, an attorney with the Center for Popular Democracy.

“I tried to be successful at Amazon, but the reality is that executives are so focused on processing hundreds of packages at an inhumane speed that the people working at the facilities are expected to work like robots,” said Kathleen Hildebrandt, a former Amazon worker who was terminated after she made an accommodations request due to her disability. “When I was discriminated against for my disability – and then found out there were others like me who had lost their jobs at Amazon because they had a disability – I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.”

Also unveiled at the press briefing is a new report from United for Respect titled “Disabling: How Amazon Fails Associates With Workplace Accommodations,” which highlights major concerns with the company’s current accommodations processes and policies. The report, which includes interviews and conversations with Amazon associates across the country, details challenges workers face navigating excessive requests for paperwork and medical documentation, indefinite delays, departments that don’t communicate with one another, discrimination from managers, and more.

After the briefing, Amazon associates took to the nation’s capital to meet with elected officials to discuss the accommodations issues at Amazon, highlight their personal experiences with the company, and advocate for solutions to improve the company’s accommodations system. Associates held advocacy meetings with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and the offices of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Additional Background

Amazon has been under the microscope for its failure to take worker injuries seriously and implement preventative measures to improve workplace safety. So far, federal investigators have found serious violations at seven Amazon warehouses in five states for safety hazards, including rarely-issued violations for abuse of injured workers by corporate medical personnel. Additionally, Amazon has received violations for excessive work pace, the first in the 50-year history of the Federal OSH Act.

Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders announced a Senate investigation into Amazon’s dangerous workplace conditions and safety practices, which will examine the company’s extreme injury rates and poor medical treatment of injured workers. Amazon is also facing a trial in Washington state over job hazards and abusive workloads at two of its warehouses. Amazon workers and experts in workplace safety, ergonomics, and occupational medicine are set to testify.

About United For Respect:

United for Respect (UFR) is a national non-profit organization. UFR is a multiracial movement of working people throughout the U.S. advancing a vision of an economy where our work is respected and our humanity recognized. UFR is not a labor union and does not intend or seek to represent retail employees over terms and conditions of employment or to bargain with retail employers. www.united4respect.org