Senators Seek Investigation of Amazon Over Treatment of Pregnant Workers

Ellison Lynch

A group of U.S. senators is asking the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate allegations that Inc. doesn` reasonably accommodate its fulfillment centers` pregnant workers.

The senators wrote EEOC Chairwoman Charlotte Burrows on Thursday asking her office to look into allegations the company failed to adequately modify physically strenuous work that could threaten pregnant workers` health and safety, and didn’t allow pregnant women to take time off for pregnancy-related medical needs without being punished. The group of Democratic senators say both scenarios may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Amazon didn`t immediately provide comment. The company earlier this year said it was starting a program focused on improving the health and wellness of its hourly warehouse staffers. Founder and former Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has said the company needs “a better vision for how we create value for employees—a vision for their success.”

The letter to Ms. Burrows was signed by senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Bob Casey (D., Penn.), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

The senators said former company employees filed at least seven lawsuits against the company between 2015 and 2019 “alleging that Amazon wrongfully terminated them during their pregnancies and failed to accommodate rudimentary requests such as more frequent bathroom breaks and fewer continuous hours on their feet.”

Amazon, which the senators say has more than 100 fulfillment centers, saw a large bump in sales during the pandemic as people flocked to order goods online while they stayed home. Net sales in 2020 were $386.06 billion, up 38% from a year ago. Earnings at the company were $21.33 billion, up from $11.59 billion.

The Seattle-based company, which is one of the largest employers in the U.S., also went on a large hiring push at the beginning of the pandemic and said last year that it was going to give full-time job offers to 125,000 of its 175,000 temporary hires. The company is also looking to grow its ranks further in adding 55,000 employees who will work in areas like technology, it said this month.

The senators` letter comes as California lawmakers consider new legislation to regulate companies like Amazon that employ quotas and other algorithm-driven work practices at their warehouses. The bill, which passed the state Senate with a 26-11 vote Wednesday, would bar companies from enforcing productivity quotas and penalties that affect employees` health and safety, including the ability to take breaks or use the bathroom.


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