Amazon had pledged to provide its workers with two weeks of paid sick leave if they tested positive or were in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, several Amazon employees, as reported by CNBC on April 6, revealed that they either received no pay or only 60% of their average weekly paycheck despite meeting the eligibility criteria for paid sick leave. This failure to adhere to their own policies has led many Amazon workers to apply for unemployment benefits to bridge the income gaps.
According to Sharlene, an Amazon warehouse worker, her expectation of paid sick leave was not met when she had to self-quarantine after a trip to the emergency room. Fearing the risk posed by her asthma and COPD, she opted to stay home, anticipating compensation from Amazon. The company had previously announced up to two weeks of paid sick leave for full and part-time employees showing symptoms, having the virus, or undergoing quarantine.
However, Sharlene and her coworkers in quarantine reported not receiving any payment or only receiving 60% of their regular weekly pay. Discrepancies in the experience of Amazon employees during quarantine have led to frustration, with some feeling the need to navigate complex processes to secure their pay. One worker in Indiana expressed dissatisfaction, stating that the situation added to concerns about safety and transparency at Amazon facilities.
An Amazon spokesperson emphasized that the company provided two weeks of paid sick time to ensure employees had the necessary time for recovery without income worries. The spokesperson also mentioned that additional paid time off could be available for employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or in quarantine after the initial two weeks.
Safety measures have been implemented in Amazon facilities in response to the pandemic, including increased cleaning frequency, mandatory sanitization of work stations and vehicles, temperature checks, and the provision of face masks. However, the varying experiences of Amazon workers across different warehouses may be attributed to regional differences in the response to the crisis.
For those struggling to receive adequate pay, Amazon workers have limited options, relying on savings or applying for unemployment benefits. The CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, allows workers to stay home longer and collect unemployment benefits with an additional $600 per week for up to four months. However, concerns about job security may deter some workers from applying for unemployment.
While some Amazon workers have successfully applied for unemployment benefits, others, like one worker in Michigan, faced challenges in receiving promised pay from Amazon. This worker, after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and receiving medical advice to quarantine, struggled to obtain the pay owed. Despite being advised by an HR representative to apply for Amazon’s relief fund, the worker found that the fund did not include regular associates.
The difficulties in securing sick leave pay have led some workers, like Sharlene, to apply for unemployment after prolonged delays. As Amazon workers face uncertainties about their income during quarantine, the company’s handling of sick leave policies has raised concerns among employees about their well-being and financial stability.
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