Its When Amazon "Constructively" Fires You or Compels You to Quit
Its When Amazon "Constructively" Fires You or Compels You to Quit
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Were you constructively discharged by Amazon?
Did Amazon make it impossible for you to do your job?
Did the company tolerate harassment?
Did the company fail to accommodate your disability or religious practices?
Did you quit as a result?
If so, you may have a claim for “constructive discharge.”
To help you decide what to do next, here are some things you should know about.
Understanding “At Will” Employment
About three quarters of workers in the US are employed on an “at will” basis. As the NCSL explains,
At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
Thus, simply firing someone for “no reason,” or making it impossible for them to do their job, isn’t necessarily wrongful termination. For the constructive discharge of an at-will employee to be grounds for a wrongful termination claim, the reason the employee was constructively discharged must be illegal or otherwise improper.
What is illegal employment discrimination?
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
Both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in relation to:
What is a constructive discharge claim?
As Investopedia explains,
A constructive discharge claim is a lawsuit filed by an employee who has quit a job because the conditions under which they were working had become intolerable, primarily on purpose with the goal of forcing the employee to leave.
As the EEOC explains,
An employer may not take into account a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information when making decisions about discipline or discharge. For example, if two employees commit a similar offense, an employer many not discipline them differently because of their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
An employer can be liable for discriminatory discharge not only when they fire someone directly but when they do or allow things that force an employee to quit.
Employers need to make reasonable accommodations
Employers need to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless this could cause more than a minor burden on the company’s operations.
As the EEOC notes,
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.
Employers also need to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities unless this would cause an undue burden to the employer. Reasonable accommodations can include things like:
As the ADA National Network explains, accommodations for mental illness can include:
· Concentration or distraction issues: More frequent reminders of tasks and due dates; a quieter work environment; more frequent short breaks; work from home (if this doesn’t cause undue hardship to the employer).
· Managing treatment and medication: Flexible schedule to allow for appointments; more frequent breaks for medication; allow for use of water bottle during worktimes; part-time schedule until medication plan stabilizes.
· Anxiety: Use of white noise earphones; attend meetings remotely; work from home part-or full- time; exchange non-essential job tasks with another employee; change in management style of supervisor.
According to the EEOC,
Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer’s size, financial resources, and the needs of the business. An employer may not refuse to provide an accommodation just because it involves some cost. An employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide.
Failure to Accommodate as Constructive Discharge
A failure to accommodate can result in a “constructive discharge.” This means that the employer made the working conditions that any reasonable person would feel forced to resign. This is equivalent to being fired.
In a case from the Sixth Circuit, a former cashier with severe arthritis and other health issues couldn’t stand for more than 15 minutes without extreme pain. She requested a stool to sit on while working, and had a doctor’s note to support this request, but her employer refused because other employees allegedly complained about favoritism and wanted their own stools. When she quit, the court found that she had been constructively discharged when the employer failed to accommodate her disability.
Constructive Discharge at Amazon
As CBS News reported,
Three Muslim employees at an Amazon warehouse in Minneapolis say they “have experienced discriminatory treatment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and constructive discharge” at work, according to a letter written by Muslim Advocates.
The advocacy group says the three women, identified only as Ms. A, Ms. B. and Ms. C., are all black women of Somali origin. They feel they are being discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, and national origin — and they say they are not alone.
Emily Sousa, an Amazon shift manager in New Jersey and Delaware, claimed that Amazon constructively discharged her after she complained about male supervisors who were harassing her. According to a court opinion in her case,
A male manager soon compared her to an adult actress and told her that “women are too delicate to work at Amazon.”…. Understandably, she reported this and resigned.
Later, after she was rehired by Amazon, Sousa (who is of Japanese heritage) had to put up with a male supervisor who “quickly made [her] the target of constant harassment”:
He bragged about his promotion, asked if she liked his haircut, told her he likes Japanese cartoons, suggested that she should be his “travel guide” should he make a trip to Japan, requested dating advice, and asked about her boyfriend.
Condescendingly, the judge ruled against Sousa, saying “Employees must put up with some trials and tribulations in the workplace.”
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