Friday, November 14, 2014

Amazon: Employee Treatment and Working Conditions Exposed (2013)

Amazon Co. logo also known as “Earth’s Most Consumer-Centric Company” has everything you need from clothes to electronics to books, but what actually happens inside the company warehouses is quite shocking. Within the last year, former workers are coming forward to discuss their experiences working inside the largest warehouse in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania. One man, Neal Heimbach as well as many others have filed lawsuits against the world's largest online retailer. The main complaint in the lawsuit alleges that Amazon fails to compensate hourly workers for time spent waiting in security check lines at the end of each shift and again after their lunch break, this process usually takes 20 minutes to undergo. This process involves employees walking through metal detectors at the start of shifts and undergoing wand screening many times a day. The lawsuit also claims that employee’s get a strict 30 minute unpaid lunch break in which the majority of that time can be taken up walking from one end of the warehouse to the other end. Employees get two paid 15-minute breaks but they allege that they constantly monitor you with supervisors that look at computer screens. After this news story was made public, a source went undercover at one of the warehouses in California and witnessed that Amazon wanted each employee to pack 240 boxes per hour, or shift. The standard was only 150 boxes per shift, making it impossible to pack that many boxes per shift. The last major issue that prompted these lawsuits against Amazon is when a woman suffered heat stroke in the Pennsylvania warehouse and was fired from her position the next day.

The stakeholders of this case include the employees, their families, customers, and those who sell on Amazon's employees are the most direct stakeholders because they are the ones who are directly being treated unethically. Because some of the employees suffered medical conditions from working in the warehouses, their families could also be affected. Families could have to live with a medical condition the employee suffered which could cause financial problems or could simply just make taking care of the person a lot more difficult. Another stakeholder in this case are customers. Customers who buy from Amazon probably do not know what is going on inside the warehouses. Because Amazon employees pack customer’s packages, the customers are affected because they are the ones contributing to the employee’s unethical treatment, whether they know it or not. The last stakeholder in this case are the sellers. The people who sell items on Amazon are also connected to the customers and ultimately the employees who are suffering in the warehouses.
Amazon packaging warehouse
According to the Utilitarianism Theory, the goal of a business is to maximize happiness in yourself and other people. Therefore, its primary goal is to maximize happiness for all affected parties and to minimize unhappiness for all affected parties. There was no pleasure for Amazon employees while working in the warehouses. One could say that making $11 an hour, more than minimum wage would make the employees content but as most of them said, making that much money an hour was not worth it. In the short-term, employees were content with making $11 an hour but as time went on, the working conditions and the treatment of employees got worse. As a result, making that $11 an hour was not worth it in the long-run.
Overall, Amazon could have avoided all of the negative publicity and lawsuits if they had followed the four ethical theories. Not only would following each of the ethical theories be good for the company, but it would also be good for all of the stakeholders.

According to the Individualist Theory, the only goal of a business is to maximize profit within the law. Amazon did in fact increase their profit by $34,204 in 2010 to $74,452 in 2013. Amazon was acting within the constraints of the law after a federal investigation was created. Because there is no law concerning the heat issues, Amazon was acting within the law. With the investigation by OSHA, Amazon was not doing anything wrong concerning the 15 minute break times, it didn’t matter that the time spent walking to the break room could take up almost the entire time of the break.

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon

Under Kantianism, an action is deemed permissible or impermissible according to the Categorical Imperative and the Formula of Humanity which states that it is wrong to use people as a means to get what you want because it exploits them. This theory focuses on Good Will and rationality. Amazon failed the Categorical Imperative and the Formula of Humanity because they hired temporary workers during the holidays and then fired them after. Also, Amazon expected their employees to pack way more boxes than the average which was impossible and unreasonable.

Virtue TheoryAccording to Virtue Theory, rationality is what differentiates characteristics of people. This theory focuses on 4 main virtues: courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. Amazon did not have any of these virtues. They were not courageous because they made their employees work in awful conditions and treated them poorly. They were not honest with their employees, the time spent waiting and the short breaks were wrong. Amazon did not have any temperance because they did not have a reasonable expectation of employees packing 240 boxes per shift. Lastly, Amazon was not just to their employees or to the media. Amazon told the media there was nothing was wrong with the working conditions in the warehouse and tried to make it better by saying that employees were paid $11 an hour.


Edwards, Jim. "Brutal Conditions In Amazon's Warehouses Threaten To Ruin The Company's Image." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 05 Aug. 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

“Financial Statements for Inc (AMZN)." Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“Jeffrey Preston Bezos." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 30 Sep. 2014.

Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business. Print.

Soper, Spencer. "Amazon Warehouse Workers Fight for Unemployment Benefits." 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
Yarow, Jay. "Amazon Was Selling 306 Items Every Second At Its Peak This Year." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Young, Angelo. "'s Workers Are Low-Paid, Overworked And Unhappy; Is This The New Employee Model For The Internet Age?" International Business Times. 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment