March 03, 2022

Senators Warren, Sanders, Booker, Blumenthal, Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Bush Call Out Amazon's Attendance Policy Punishing Workers for Taking Legally-Protected Leave

Lawmakers Urge Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to Launch Investigations 

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), urging them to investigate Amazon’s “Attendance Points Policy”, which punishes workers for taking legally-protected leave. An analysis of Amazon’s attendance policies from A Better Balance found that the company punishes workers for unplanned absences, including legally-protected leave, and fails to inform workers of their right to take time off without punishment. The lawmakers are calling on DOL and EEOC to immediately open investigations into Amazon’s attendance policy and ensure that Amazon gives workers the leave that they are entitled to.

“DOL should use its authority to investigate Amazon’s Attendance Points Policy and its compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, and EEOC should investigate Amazon’s policy and its compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Amazon’s troubling attendance policy negatively impacts hundreds of thousands of Amazon workers and is also part of a larger corporate trend, making DOL and EEOC enforcement all the more important,” wrote the lawmakers. 

Amazon’s Attendance Points Policy punishes workers for missing work unexpectedly, assigning points to a worker’s record depending on when a worker reports an absence. If a worker accumulates enough points, Amazon may fire them. Additionally, Amazon punishes workers if they work below a minimum number of hours a week. Many Amazon workers have described Amazon’s failure to inform them about the federal and local laws that entitle them to protected time off, and even if they are informed, managers often ignore these protections and misassign points for protected absences. 

The lawmakers raised concerns that Amazon’s attendance policy may violate workers’ federal leave protections. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles workers to emergency time off of work without consequence, and only requires workers to provide notice “as soon as practicable.” However, Amazon’s attendance policy still punishes a worker for an unexpected absence. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workers are entitled to reasonable accommodation for disabilities, including leaves of absences or limited hours, but Amazon’s attendance policy provides no clear exceptions to penalties for working minimum hours each week. This attendance policy may also violate states’ similar worker leave laws. 

Senator Warren and her colleagues noted that DOL has referred similar attendance policies to its Wage and Hour Division for investigation into possible violations of FMLA protections, and called on the Department to do so again with Amazon. They also noted that EEOC has conducted ADA investigations and enforcements against private employers for violations of work protections. The lawmakers called on DOL and EEOC to launch immediate investigations into Amazon’s attendance policy, and provide their staff with a briefing by no later than March 17, 2022.

"We applaud Senator Warren and her colleagues for urging the Department of Labor and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate grave problems with Amazon's points-based attendance policy and practices. As we see firsthand through our helpline, ‘no fault’ attendance policies like Amazon's routinely mislead, misinform, and punish low-wage workers for lawful absences, particularly workers who are ill, pregnant, or need to care for a seriously ill loved one," said A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-President Dina Bakst. "No worker should be discouraged from taking time off to which they're legally entitled during a deadly pandemic, or ever. Amazon must correct the deficiencies in their attendance points policy and ensure all their workers can fully access their rights under federal, state, and local laws."

This letter follows a July 2020 letter Senator Warren wrote to five large retailers: Walmart, Conagra, FedEx, 3M, and Kroger, expressing concerns about their attendance policies that penalize workers for taking legally-protected absences. 

Senator Warren is a leader in the fight to protect workers’ rights and prevent workers from being exploited by huge corporations. 

  • In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Schedules that Work Act to help ensure that low-wage employees have more certainty about their work schedules and income. 
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro, Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act to strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs.
  • In December 2021, Senator Warren and Representatives Cori Bush and Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez sent a letter to Amazon, demanding answers about the circumstances and failure in safety policies that led to the death of six employees after an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois collapsed during a tornado.
  • In April 2020, Senator Warren and Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) proposed an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which includes universal paid sick leave and family and medical leave.
  • Senator Warren is an original cosponsor of the 2020 PAID Leave Act, legislation that would provide universal paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.