Fired Employee Sues Amazon over Lack of Bathroom Access
An employee who was fired from Amazon has filed a lawsuit against the company over the lack of Bathroom access at the workplace. The employee in an Amazon call center in Kentucky reportedly asked managers for flexibility in the company’s break schedule to accommodate bathroom needs stemming from his Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a painful, chronic and unpredictable inflammatory bowel condition. But, a supervisor accused him of stealing time, and he was fired, he alleges in the lawsuit against the company charging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Kentucky law.
The lawsuit again brings Amazon’s bathroom policies to the light. The Seattle based company has recently become the most valued company in the world making its founder Jeff Bezos the wealthiest person in the globe. Amazon’s bathroom policies were highlighted in a book by a British author last year that described warehouse workers taking extreme measures to relieve themselves so as not to let their productivity slip — measures disputed by the company. However, the Seattle based e-commerce giant said in a statement, “We do not monitor toilet breaks.”
The ADA complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Kentucky, talks of a strict and limited break schedule at an Amazon customer service center in the suburb of Winchester that employs some 900 people.
Employee Nicholas Stover, owing to his disease needed to use the bathroom more frequently than the schedule allowed. He alleges in the lawsuit that he requested for flexible schedule or to be moved closer to the bathroom, but he was denied those accommodations.
However, Amazon declined to comment on the pending litigation. It is yet to file a response in the court as well. Bart Greenwald, an attorney representing Stover with the law firm Duncan Galloway Egan Greenwald, declined to expand on the issue beyond the facts mentioned in the complaint.
As per disability law experts who reviewed the complaint, Stover’s accommodation requests as reasonable and unlikely to cause an undue burden on the company. It should be noted that the standards spelled out in the ADA, which was amended in 2008 to include symptoms of diseases such as Crohn’s when they substantially limit a significant life activity.
Experts said that without hearing more details, however, it is impossible to guess if the policies that impacted Stover were widespread — as alleged in the complaint — or imposed at the discretion of the individual manager in question, or if there’s more to the story that is not included in the complaint for apparent reasons.
As per Stover, he started working for Amazon in November 2016, and he had disclosed about his disease when he applied for a job and during training at the company’s customer service call center in Winchester.
“Episodes of symptoms of Crohn’s disease can occur without warning and can require an urgent response, including the immediate need for bathroom facilities,” according to Stover’s complaint. But Stover was not informed by anyone in Amazon of the company’s break and schedule policies — which his attorneys describe in the complaint as “draconian,” “unyielding” and “inhuman” — before being hired.
A typical call center employee works nine-hour shift. And Stover was on from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. — taking calls from customers and resolving typical e-commerce issues such as providing product information, handling returns and refunds, and tracking down packages. As per Amazon policies, the standard shift included three breaks: an hour for meals and two 15-minute breaks. All these breaks are scheduled by Amazon and unalterable by employees, according to the complaint.
Along with this, employees were granted unscheduled personal time of up to 10 minutes per shift and no more than 20 minutes a week.
Time taken beyond the specified time limit “will subject the employee to reprimand and other disciplinary possibilities,” according to the complaint.
As per the complaint, owing to his disease, Stover needed to use the bathroom more frequently than the company’s policies allowed, and he was continually reprimanded. But as per the company, he was given a raise and promoted to a team called search and rescue that handles difficult customer service problems.
After six months of getting into Amazon, Stover, with the support of a physician, requested an accommodation. His doctor completed the request form and wrote that Stover “must have [a] bathroom facility readily available.”
As per the complaint, Amazon neither offered to move his work station closer to the bathroom, a one- to two-minute walk away; not it offered options for unscheduled or emergency bathroom breaks or any other changes in work structure to accommodate his disability.
He also alleges that Amazon denied a request for an adjustment to his schedule to take a day off to receive an intravenous infusion as a treatment for his disease.
He is seeking a jury trial and mentioned a minimum of $3 million for the damage.