Today, national nonprofit legal services and advocacy organization A Better Balance sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to draw attention to the grave legal problems with the company’s new Attendance Points Policy, urging it to update and clarify the policy immediately. The letter invites the New York State Attorney General, United States Department of Labor, and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to further examine Amazon’s compliance with the law. While the escalating public health crisis highlights the stakes and urgency of the problem, the concerns detailed in the letter preceded the pandemic, and will continue after the pandemic ends, unless and until they are rectified.
As the letter details, Amazon’s “Attendance Points Policy” keeps workers in the dark about their legal rights and makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to understand and assert their federal, state, and local rights to legally-protected family and medical leave, sick time, and time off as a reasonable accommodation for certain medical conditions. The policy is highly misleading as to the rights of employees who have urgent, unforeseeable needs for time off for which they are unable to provide the company’s required 16-hours advance notice—such as needing to rush a child to the emergency room. The policy is also deeply troubling as applied to employees who are unable to meet its minimum weekly work requirements, for example due to a chronic medical condition, or a need for time off to recover from surgery or to care for a seriously ill loved one.
On its free and confidential legal helpline, A Better Balance has heard from workers who report being afraid to assert their rights to legally-protected time off for fear of violating Amazon’s attendance policy and practices.
A Better Balance has long documented the problems with overly rigid and punitive attendance policies like Amazon’s, most recently in the landmark report, “Misled & Misinformed: How Some U.S. Employers Use ‘No Fault’ Attendance Policies to Trample on Workers’ Rights (And Get Away With It).” These abusive attendance policies use progressive disciplinary systems to punish workers for absences, tardiness, and early exits from work, even when they are protected by law.
The letter reads: “Policies like these are particularly dangerous during an ongoing pandemic, pressuring workers to go to work while sick or exposed to an extremely transmissible virus because they cannot afford to accrue an attendance point and risk their livelihood […] We urge you—if you in fact wish Amazon to be ‘Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work,’ as your founder publicly professes—to correct the deficiencies in the Attendance Points Policy without delay.”
A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-Founder Dina Bakst adds:
“Especially in the midst of a raging global pandemic, no worker should fear punishment or job loss for needing to go to the emergency room or provide care for a seriously ill child or parent. Yet that’s a reality for low-wage workers subject to draconian attendance policies and practices like Amazon’s which trample on workers’ legal rights to take time off without punishment, especially in states like New York with strong protections. With today’s letter, we urge Amazon leadership to update their new attendance policy immediately to fully comply with the law.”