Senate lawmakers want to scrutinize the conditions for pregnant workers at Amazon.com, saying a series of wage lawsuits and charges of sex discrimination suggest that many are denied overtime and paid leave.
Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it will offer up to $5,000 to workers who have had children over the past three years. The company will use US tax incentives and other tax breaks to help provide the new cash. It is expanding its childcare program to 1,600 full-time workers in the United States, including 450 at Amazon fulfillment centers. The effort is part of the company’s “Career Choice” program, which says it will save customers the $5,000 and much more for workers who want to return to work at Amazon, after each child’s first birthday.
Amazon says, however, that it does not compensate workers while on leave, once they return.
Senators Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican senator from Indiana, sent a letter to secretary of labor Alexander Acosta on Monday seeking a meeting with Amazon representatives to discuss “pregnant employees’ rights, conditions, and treatment.”
“Amazon is making large investments in its business to remain competitive and grow. But we need to ensure that workers get adequate protections to ensure that they have a chance to succeed and build a successful career at Amazon,” said Braden Reddall, a spokesman for the two senators.
Employees’ rights to six-week maternity leave benefits and sick days varies according to what state they work in. However, in many cases, workers who work at Amazon warehouses, or long distance from home, have fewer protections than employees in other industries. In one situation last year, a worker was allowed to take just three sick days instead of six weeks paid leave. One former Amazon employee also told news organizations that she faced retaliation when she asked about a disability she claims she has suffered from her teenage pregnancy.
“We don’t think it’s enough for Amazon to throw money at this problem, especially since the average hourly wage for a warehouse worker is $12 an hour. One person needs to be able to balance work and motherhood,” said Sweet Skippy Skritzmaier, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
A spokesman for Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.