Amazon has become one of the largest companies to dominate the American landscape during the past couple of years. With Amazon Prime dominating e-commerce, Prime Video becoming a viable alternative to cable, original programming like American Gods, and forays into the world of smart speakers with Amazon Alexa, it’s hard to do anything without encountering one of the company’s many projects. Lurking beneath the vestiges of success, however, is a horror story set between Amazon’s warehouses and glitzy Seattle HQ.
The company does everything it can to smother allegations of abuse in its warehouses, but private investigations and exposés by journalists have uncovered that employees are subject to crazy rules that can break them. Between strenuous, back breaking work, and impossible standards set by literal robots, employees cannot catch a break. These rules are surprising and pretty depressing, and will undoubtedly have you thankful that your life isn’t as bleak as some of these poor employees. New cases of exploitation against employees are being revealed every day while the company struggled to keep the details of its abuse under wraps, but thanks to public curiosity and an ever increasing number of ex-employees, we are coming closer to understanding Amazon’s insane treatment of its workers.
15 Employees Have Timed Toilet Breaks And Severe Consequences
Amazon employees get the dirty end of the stick when it comes to taking bathroom breaks. They’re only allowed to have two 30 minute breaks per day, including bathroom breaks. During break times, lines can form outside the bathrooms causing people to wait longer. While employees are allowed to go in an emergency, they are timed.
Their movements and progress is tracked by a computer that can tell if they’ve stepped away from the job site.
The fulfillment centre is so large that some employees spend 5 minutes walking to and from the bathroom, which is leads to upwards of ten minutes away from their assignment, and this can cause them problems during their performance review. Bathrooms are supposed to be cleaned by employees, but are often left in a terrible state.
14 Workers Basically Wait To Be Replaced By Faster Robots
Employees who aren’t performing at a high enough rate often find themselves at the mercy of Amazon’s new venture: Robots. Automation is one of the company’s core focusses, and a huge part of automation is finding ways to be more efficient. While Amazon seems to need an infinite amount of people to work in its many warehouses around the world, the implementation of robots will eventually be more cost effective. This day is coming fast, with robots finding new tasks in the warehouses every day.
Human “pickers” follow the instructions given by robots.
The sad truth is that every job performed by a minimum wage based warehouse employee can and will eventually be replaced by a robot – currently the company uses at least 80,000 in its operations and this number continues to grow.
13 Employees Are Forced To Work Overtime, Up To 55 Extra Hours During Holidays
Amazon employees are subject to something called “mandatory overtime”.
A regular shift can be up to 13 hours long, and warehouse employees are expected to turn out around 600,000 items on a regular day.
On holidays, this number climbs to over 1 million. Glassdoor, one of the most popular websites for reviewing jobs, has dozens of reviews from current and former employees complaining about being stuck with mandatory overtime during peak periods. Employees are sometimes given the illusion of choosing when they can work mandatory overtime, with one source writing for The Street, “if workers don't take on the ‘mandatory overtime’ shift, 10 hours can be cut from their vacation time to make up for it. Amazon declined to comment on record about this claim.” That’s actually nuts.
12 Workers Are Given Impossible Targets That Literally Break Them
The work at Amazon is extremely physically demanding. Shifts can be as long as 13 hours before overtime with infrequent breaks. It can take 5 minutes of break time to walk to the toilets and the breakroom, wasting time.
Employees aren’t allowed to sit while working and have to package up to 120 items an hour – or one item every thirty seconds.
If they achieve this, their supervisors instruct them to do more. If they miss it, they get a write up and can be fired without notice. Promotions are given to employees, which means they have more responsibility and work, but promotions are not given raises. Amazon has a habit of not reporting work injuries, either. In 2016 alone, the company was fined for failing to report at least 26 cases. Some employees reported actually being fired after being injured at Amazon, because their injury prevented them from working.
11 They Only Get 2 Short Breaks And Spend Most Of It Waiting In Lines
The breaks at Amazon are a contentious issue. As mentioned previously, employees are only given two breaks a day. It can be two 30 minute breaks, or one 30 minute with two 15 minute breaks, but this is complicated by the amount of time spent moving between the work site and break room.
It can take 5 minutes to walk quickly to the bathroom, but employees must also factor in the amount of time they need to wait in line.
To get into the break room they must pass through loss prevention metal detectors. Then they have to either wait in line to microwave their food or buy something from the vending machine. Then they have to leave to make it back to their post on time. While the company is innovative in terms of e-commerce and robots, one thing they severely lack is empathy.
10 Managers Covered All The Clocks In The Warehouse So Employees Have No Idea When They're Working
Employees are not allowed to carry phones or watches. Part of the reason they’re given is that because Amazon stocks phones and watches, it makes it more difficult to steal. While this makes sense, it’s a little bit suspicious that some employees have reported that managers have covered the clocks in their warehouses.
With massive fluorescent lights and no windows, one employee from the UK wrote “night and day have no meaning.”
Employees might be able gauge the time based on the computer that tracks how much they’re packaging, but repeated the same action over and over for hours probably causes them to drift off a little bit. Between the physically demanding work, weird break system, and the fact that they can’t sit down, it’s no wonder that the company has such a high turnover rate.
9 Some Employees Even Become Secretly Homeless To Make It To Work On Time
One of the good things about Amazon is that in America and the UK, it pays above minimum wage and provides employees with some benefits. The bar for entry for this job is very low, which means that for many people it might be the first real job they’ve ever had.
Most employees cannot afford to live in the areas in immediate proximity to the warehouses.
Some are shuttled in on company busses – which are small and crowded, often causing employees to miss the bus – while some commute hours each day to make it. Journalists in the UK discovered that some employees would stay in a tent in the woods near the warehouse in order to make it on time every morning, and this pattern has actually been noticed around most warehouses.
8 Workers Have 30 Seconds To Pack 1 Box, And Less Time If They're Fast
A problem with modern corporate culture is that if you can demonstrate you are capable of doing more work than your job minimally requires, you will be asked to do more and often not compensated for it. As mentioned previously, promotions are not dealt with pay raises. Raises are only given to employees every 6 months, and only in increments of 50 cents.
Employees who demonstrate that they can work faster than the requisite 120 boxes an hour are simply asked to do more and rarely receive positive feedback.
If you work yourself up to having to pack 140 boxes an hour, or nearly 3 a minute, you will be penalized if you cannot maintain this rate. You can’t really win here, but it took a long time for everyone to figure this out.
7 Amazon White Collar Employees Participate In Human Trafficking While Warehouse Workers Suffer
While warehouse employees struggle with making it to work on time, making rate, and being able to use the washroom, Amazon’s white collar employees have a slightly different reputation. An investigation by media outlet Newsweek found that employees using Amazon company emails engaged in the buying and selling of women online – otherwise known as human trafficking. Human trafficking rates rise in areas with huge tech companies like Amazon.
Many employees from Amazon have actually been arrested, but most choose to settle their cases out of court.
While CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of 98.8 billion dollars, software engineers make upwards of $100k, and warehouse employees make around $11 an hour. Evidently, there is a massive disconnect between the corporate world and that of the warehouse employees.
6 Employees Are Tracked By Robots And Watched Very Closely On Cameras
Employees in the warehouse are tracked for their entire shift. While at their work station, a computer measures how much they are packing and shipping on a timer, sending the information to a digitized file. Managers wander the warehouse to make sure employees are standing and working, and will punish sitting employees with write-ups that lead to termination. A centralized room with cameras watches the employees and the data produced by their trackers very closely, although an undercover investigation was able to capture exhausted employees sleeping standing up in their workstations. It is unknown if the employees photographed were caught and reprimanded, but one can imagine that more often than not, sleeping employees are dealt with harshly.
Some employees report squaring off with the robots that designate their workload, unable to perform to the same standards generated by the computers.
5 Just Because You’re Sick Or Injured Doesn’t Mean You Can Slow Down
Speed is everything. Efficiency is key. Humans are totally replaceable. Workplace injuries in the Amazon Fulfillment Centres are common because of the strenuous work and repetitive motions, both of which are terrible for the human body to undergo. Employees are unable to take sick days and are often forced to come to work while ill, otherwise they risk losing their jobs.
Being fired can occur without notice, with some former employees reporting that they showed up to work only to find their ID cards no longer let them in the building.
Workplace injuries in the warehouses are often brushed under the rug, and employees who cannot preform because of their injuries will be let go of because it’s easier to replace them and maintain rate than it is to wait for them to convalesce or reassign them. Talk about a real life American Horror Story.
4 Security Is Extremely High To Prevent Employees From Stealing At Their Own Expense
Robots, trackers, metal detectors, cameras. Amazon truly has it all. It seems like the more information that comes out of Amazon’s warehouses, the closer we are to living in a Black Mirror world IRL.
The employees are forced to wait in long lines to pass through TSA style security – including bag checks, pat downs, and metal detectors.
All of this is done in the name of loss prevention, which is apparently a big enough deal that the company spends millions each year developing its loss prevention strategies. Who can blame them, though? It must be hard to be broke, tired, and surrounded by a seemingly infinite amount of toilet paper and books. Amazon is currently at the centre of a conspiracy theory that its new Alexa home smart speaker can spy on users and track their information, so it’s no surprise that they implement next-level security and tracking in their own warehouses. Stay alert, I guess. You never know who’s watching.
3 Lazy Employees Who Don’t Get Fired Have To Sweep The Floor For Up To 12 Hours
This is being phased out because of the robots, but for a long time, lazy employees would be punished by being put on broom duty. This meant pushing an enormous broom around the warehouse for 12 hours a day.
Imagine sweeping an entire football field, non stop, for a whole day.
Some employees initially would try to be put on broom duty because it’s way easier than shipping and packing all day long, but reality would quickly set in. The task is boring and torturous. Now, the company has a tendency to simply terminate under-achieving employees, but this is still implemented as a punishment to make an example of some people. It’s no fun, but there doesn’t seem to be many redeeming qualities in working here anyway.
2 Workers CANNOT Talk To Coworkers Yet Spend Shifts Alone Surrounded By Thousands Of People
Working in an Amazon Fulfillment Centre seems like the loneliest job in the entire world. Despite the presence of thousands of employees, the work does not require working in groups or teams.
Because of the individualized nature of the work, employees spend most of their shift alone, with their only contact being the robots zooming around them or the managers peeking around corners waiting to catch them sitting down.
If workers are close enough to each other that they can talk, they will be moved and reassigned when they’re caught. And the chances of them being caught are high, since any sign of underperformance on the computers will prompt an investigation. Weirdly enough, even talking to supervisors can slow you down enough to cause a write-up. Bleak. Steer clear of this job if you’re the chatty type, but let your introverted friends know Amazon is always hiring.
1 Employees Have Zero Job Security If They Mess Up
Being fired from Amazon is just as easy as being fired. The process is entirely automated and can happen without warning. There are no interviews in the beginning, only training and a criminal background check. After those who pass the background check are hired, they are subject to all of the above rules and regulations. It’s no secret that employees struggle to meet the expectations given to them by their managers and set by the computers.
Every single mistake an employee makes is a chance to remind them that they are replaceable.
It’s sad, but true. There are rumours that the company plants fake positive reviews on job sites like Glassdoor in an attempt to keep their high turnover rate a secret, blaming employees for being fired because of laziness. The line, however, between laziness and the incapability of meeting inhuman standards is a bit blurry. A job at Amazon just does not seem worth the trouble.