September 10, 2021

Warren Joins Colleagues Calling For Investigation into Amazon Treatment of Pregnant Workers

Letter to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requests investigation into allegation that Amazon “systematically denies reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees at its fulfillment centers.”

Text of Letter (pdf) 

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Senate colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Charlotte Burrows requesting an investigation into allegations that Amazon denies reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees at its fulfillment centers. The senators requested that the EEOC investigate Amazon’s alleged failure to provide adequate modification of job duties for pregnant workers, as well as their alleged failure to allow pregnant workers to take time off without punishment for pregnancy-related medical needs—both of which may violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to Senators Warren and Gillibrand, the letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

In the letter, the senators noted that there “appears to be a concerning pattern of mistreatment of pregnant employees at Amazon fulfillment centers” and requested that EEOC Chair Burrows “take all appropriate steps to investigate and address Amazon’s systemic failure to provide adequate accommodations, including modification of job duties and time off for pregnancy-related medical needs, under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act in the interest of the health and safety of pregnant workers.”

The letter highlights two specific cases. First, it highlights the case of Michelle Posey, an Amazon employee with a high-risk pregnancy who was allegedly denied repeated requests for a transfer to a more suitable position and penalized for pregnancy-related absences. The second case concerns Patty Hernandez, a former packer at an Amazon fulfillment center who was allegedly denied requests for lighter duty and who miscarried at seven weeks.

Between 2015 and 2019, former Amazon employees filed at least seven lawsuits 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. Nationally, Amazon operates roughly 110 fulfillment centers, and its electronic monitoring of employees at these facilities creates a fast-paced, physically demanding workplace environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, physically strenuous labor can not only pose increased risks of injury for pregnant individuals, but may increase the likelihood of miscarriage or preterm birth.

This letter is part of Senator Warren’s latest oversight efforts regarding Amazon’s deceptive practices and treatment of workers:

  • This week, Senator Warren sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy regarding the alarming discovery that Amazon is peddling misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments through its search and “Best Seller” algorithms.
  • In October 2020, she joined a letter to Amazon criticizing the company’s use of surveillance technology to track workers who may be seeking to organize. 
  • She has pressed Amazon multiple times on the high rate of worker injuries at the warehouse in Fall River, MA, most recently releasing a concerning response from the company and noting: “Amazon could take immediate action to address the injury rate at warehouses – allowing the work to slow down and ending productivity monitoring – yet the company seems unwilling to address the root causes of high injury rates at their warehouses, or acknowledge a link between productivity demands and injuries.”
  • Senator Warren has also sent letters regarding the company’s firing of corporate whistleblowers in May 2020.
  • In October 2018, Senators Warren and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) requested information from Amazon about reports that Whole Foods, a subsidiary of Amazon, was trying to interfere with workers’ rights by tracking and monitoring employees who might seek to organize.