Amazon Worker Fights For Miscarriage And Pregnancy Accommodations Amid Bezos’ Space Exploration
Is there anything more trendy than space right now?
From Richard Branson to Ashton Kutcher, just about everyone has their mind on taking the first citizen shuttles to space. Still, no one has gotten more attention for his mission to Beyond than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The founder and executive chairman of Amazon has made headlines for months for his sights on space and efforts to get there. This week, after making a suborbital flight that lasted over 10 minutes in space, the billionaire announced that he would give over $100 million to CNN writer Van Jones and celebrity chef José Andrés to grant to charities of their choice. Pretty amazing to everyone, likely except for one worker at Amazon.
Last year, twenty-three-year-old Amazon warehouse worker, Patty Hernandez, pled for a break for her manager to help her pregnancy when she was denied she had a miscarriage.
According to her interview with Vice, in the weeks before her miscarriage, Hernandez pled “repeatedly with her manager and the warehouse’s human resources for lighter duty, and submitted a doctor’s note to Amazon’s human resources requesting pregnancy accommodations.” The note from Hernandez’s doctor requested that she do “no lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying more than 20 pounds, and no walking or standing for more than 50 percent of her shift.”
As a packer, Hernandez worked ten hours shifts and had the final hands-on Amazon packages before they were sent off to trucks for delivery. For work, Hernandez had to lift bins packed with items that were upwards of 50lbs.
Amazon’s human resources replied to Amazon’s doctor note with a rejection. “[HR] just told me there was no specific area for light work that wouldn’t require over 15 pounds of lifting or for me to be off my feet,” she explained in her interview with Vice. Yet, according to the CDC, “Heavy lifting, standing for long periods of time, or bending a lot during pregnancy could increase your chances of miscarriage, preterm birth, or injury during pregnancy.”
Despite knowing she was pregnant, Hernandez’s manager questioned her extended bathroom breaks, general breaks, and slower movements.
“My manager wasn’t accommodating,” Hernandez said in an interview with Motherboard. “He was on me, asking, ‘Why is your rate so low, why are you spending so much time in the bathroom, why is your [time off task] more than ten minutes?’ We were only allowed 10 minutes of time off task each day, but the warehouse is so big. It takes six minutes just to get to the bathroom and back.”
Amazon metrics measure the productivity of workers by keeping track of how often workers scan packages. Hernandez was provided 10 minutes for breaks per day.
When Hernandez realized she was bleeding, she told her manager that she might be experiencing a miscarriage and left work to go home. She was denied medical leave because she had not worked enough hours.
“You are not eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act because you have not worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. You have worked approximately 841.57 hours,” the letter explained according to Vice.
One week after her experience, Hernandez had an ultrasound which confirmed that she was no longer pregnant. “I went to the doctor and they couldn’t detect a heartbeat,” she explained.
Federal law often makes it legal for companies to keep pregnant workers from seeking only lighter efforts.
Speaking about her experience at Amazon, Hernandez explained, “I was mostly aware of the positives… I had two cousins working there. They said it’s so fun. You work four days a week. They made it sound like the place to work. In my perspective, I feel like they don’t care about you no matter what you’re going through. It’s very hard to miscarry because they don’t want to accommodate you.”