Amazons Issues With Human Resources
Case Controversy: Amazon; Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem
(October 24, 2021)
Within the glorified company of Amazon, and the founder Jeff Bezos, many problems behind the scenes have been developing over the years. Have you ever wondered how your packages got to your doorstep in a speed of time? The workers behind the magic of “Amazon Prime” have had struggles with this same company, specifically the Human Resource sector.
In one incident of the company shortchanging their employees, an Amazon warehouse worker in Oklahoma named Tara Jones noticed that she was underpaid by $450. The issue kept repeating itself even after she reported the issue, which concluded in her writing an email to Jeff Bezos, the founder of the company. She wrote, “I’m behind on bills, all because the pay team messed up. I’m crying as I write this email,” (nytimes.com). Bezos set off an internal investigation unbeknown to Ms. Jones and made a discovery that she was far from alone. For at least a year and a half, Amazon had been underpaying its employees dealing with medical crises through periods of record profit, according to a confidential report on the findings.
This spring James Watt, a different warehouse worker based out of Tennessee stopped receiving disability payments, leaving his family struggling to pay for food, transportation, or medical care. The sudden loss of his benefits for two weeks led to a cascade of issues, such as his car being repossessed. Mr. Watts and his wife had to sell their wedding rings just to pay for bills and put food on the table. He stated, “Not a word that there has ever been a problem, we’re losing everything.” A few months later, the benefits once again started rolling in but without explanation, and the couple are still struggling to get ahead.
According to the article, Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem, the payment calculations were only the tip of the iceberg. As the investigation continued, the company came across countless interviews and reports stating that the company’s system of handling paid, and unpaid leaves was extremely problematic. All over the world, Amazon warehouses and headquarters were experiencing problems with their employees requesting time off and paid leaves. People with medical issues were getting fired because the system would mess up and put them down as no shows instead of on leave. Case managers were impossible to reach because anyone who tried to get in touch with them were automatically rerouted to back-office staff in various locations all over the world. Even people who were ready to get back to work from an extended leave couldn’t, because the system was so backed up, which led to them losing months of income.
The reason for the backed-up messes and unorganized data streams was simply because the leave system was underdeveloped and poorly handled by the main executives of Amazon. This neglect for the employees is an overarching theme in the company that can be traced all the way back to the beginning. When Jeffery Bezos first founded Amazon, he started with this idea of “customer obsession” and the idea that the customer always came first no matter what. While this idea has worked well for Amazon, it has also left their employees disregarded. This issue is still going on in the company even today. Beth Galetti, the head of human resources is a great example of this. She is directly responsible for the issues in the human resources department because of the decisions she has made. This is because the decisions she has made and the policies she has put in place have been extremely customer centric. Her background has nothing to do with human resources and everything to do with customer satisfaction. So, the fact that she is in the position she is in, is proof enough that Amazon does not prioritize their employees nearly enough. This truth has only begun to hit the public eye in the past couple of years.
The stakeholders in this case include Amazon's employees, the families of the employees, the consumers of Amazon and Jeff Bezos. The Amazon employees in this case that were the stakeholders were Tara Jones, Alberto Castillo, James Watts, Pearl Thomas and Beth Galetti. These are all employees of Amazon in different branches of the company. All of these employees were affected by Amazons. Although, Beth Galetti was one of the specific causes of one of the other stakeholders issues with Amazon. This means that stakeholders can be from either part of the business and is a person of interest in the situation. The consumers of amazon are stakeholders as well. They are directly affected by this case because if Amazon loses employees due to the poor human resource department, then the consumers will receive worse delivery times and their products will be affected. Jeff Bezos is a stakeholder as well.
The virtue theory means to have a good moral character that means to do good. Good is having a purpose and a function in the actions. The virtue theory is about the individual's moral character. It is about exercising your rationality within yourself and in others in order to perform well. Virtue theory is about really living out one's purpose in life and getting along within society. The fact is, if an individual gets along with society, it is easier for that person to flourish more. There are four primary virtues within this theory and they are courage, honesty, temperance/self control and justice/fairness. To fulfill the virtue theory, these characteristics need to be displayed.
Within the case of Amazon's HR and their employees, the four virtue characteristics were displayed in positive and negative ways. For Tara Jone, she demonstrated the virtue characteristics of courage and self control. In the article titled “Inside Amazon's Worst Human Resources Problem”, Tara sent an email to Jeff Bezos which could have lost her her job and gotten her in some kind of trouble. This was courageous because Tara stood up for herself in the circumstance of money being taken from her paychecks every month. She took the matters into her own hands and also had self control within the situation. She controlled her words and actions to make them reasonable for the problem and went about it in a professional way. Amazon, in relation to this same incident, did not show justice/fairness or honesty. They were not displaying the four virtue characteristics, which questions their moral character. They did not only take money from Taras paycheck, but also thousands of others , which is not fair or honest of Amazon. Amazon did not tell the employees that this was happening to their paychecks, so they were not being honest about the situation.
With Alberto Castillo, the characteristics of courage that were demonstrated by his family were courageous, honesty and justice. Alberto got ill from covid and his family stopped getting the disability payments from Amazon, randomly. It was courageous of the family to reach out to Amazon in order to get their payments back and they were honest about the problems that were happening due to the payments being halted. They portrayed justice because the Castillo family wanted Amazon to give them the respect they deserve, as Alberto was a loyal employee for years. The warehouse was not informing the families of the covid outbreak and this portrays the characteristics of courage negatively, as that was not honest or fair to the families.
Pearl Thomas showed a great display of courage, justice and self control in her case against Amazon, specifically a human resource head, Beth Galetti. She came out and told her story of the racist treatment she was facing which displays courage. She had the power to be negative towards Galetti, but her self control made her do the right thing and keep it professional and come forward about the issue. She also practiced justice in her life by being a spokesperson for anyone else in the Amazon company that has experienced racism, and this gives justice to that cause. In virtue theory it is important to display the characteristics of courage as they are the main part.
There are a couple of different ways to go about Individualist Theory. According to Milton Friedman, the only goal of business is to profit within constraints of the law. The second way to at Individualism is to look from Tibor Machans eyes at something known as “Classical Individualism.” In this, the only direct goal of a business is to profit, and the primary obligation of the businessperson is to maximize the profit, (Salazar 17, 18).
If you take a step back and analyze this case, you can certainly argue that Individualists would say that Amazon followed the theory because their primary goal was to profit. During the period of the time that this case took place, Amazon’s market capitalization grew $570 billion. At the start of 2020, the e-commerce giant sported a valuation of $920 billion. After the stock bounced back from the coronavirus market sell-off, which is when this case applies, the company hen came in at $1.49 trillion, making it one of the largest companies in the world (Forbes.com). The main question involving Individualism was whether Amazon employees were being treated under the law or if they were being treated illegally.
The primary concern in this case was the immense amount of Amazon employees taking pay cuts without their permission or notice. Amazon offers its workers a wide variety of leave options, whether it be paid, unpaid, medical, or personal. During the pinnacle of the pandemic, more and more employees were going on leave, the only problem was that this opportunity for a company like Amazon was not like one they had ever seen. The entire world was shifting to online shopping, and Amazon was the top dog when it came to e-commerce, so they were hitting numbers they didn’t think were even possible.
Under Individualism, I would argue that the employees of Amazon were being treated ethically. Yes, they were not being paid on leave, but this was nothing but a mistake. They were also an immense variety of leave options, whether it was medical, personal, paid, or unpaid. Amazon’s goal was to profit, and they were hitting personal records throughout this entire period. The new CEO has also dialed in on the leave system and announced that it is a major area they are committed to improve. The company has continuously been hiring hundreds of employees streamlining and connecting systems, clarifying its communications, and training human resources staff members to be more empathetic in regard to improve on the disastrous mistake in the leave system.
Kantianism is always acting consistently with your own actions and not exempting yourself if you made a poor choice. An important factor of Kantianism is never treating a human being as a mere means, which is using them to get something out of them without care of who the person is. Being a Kantian is all about the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative is determining whether you’re being rational. If you are irrational, then you must be doing something immoral. Being deceptive and lying goes against everything that a Kantian believes in. In this Amazon case, the employees were deceived and lied to:
Tara Jones: Tara Jones was a new mother while still working in an Amazon warehouse when she realized she was getting underpaid. She had reported the issue and it continued to happen. The company wasn’t paying her the correct amount that she deserved and worked for. Jones made the right decision reporting her lack of pay because that pushed there to be an investigation and repay even more workers that were also being underpaid. Kant would consider the underpaying of employees to be impermissible because it is irrational to not be paying workers who are doing all the things they need to be doing.
James Watts: James Watts was a worker who started experiencing sudden heart attacks and strokes which caused him to go on disability leave (Kantor et al.). Suddenly Watts benefits were lost and his wife and him started to struggle to keep everyday things in their lives. His benefits restarted months later but it was still unacceptable that they were lost at all.
Leslie Tullis: Leslie Tullis was another victim of being lied to by Amazon. She requested 2 days of unpaid leave, which were accepted but Amazon didn’t seem to understand what they had approved for Tullis. She was late to turn in a couple assignments because of another issue she was a part of which resulted in her getting fired. Once Tullis argued her reason for being fired, Amazon lied and said she wasn’t fired because of her being on leave, but because of her performance while on the job.
Amazon’s actions towards their employees are unethical because of the ways they treat them. They are treated more as a mere means than actual human beings. The company’s human resource department needs to make large improvements to benefit the employees. The workers should be getting paid the correct amount and the communication between the employees and the human resource management should be a lot better.
According to Utilitarianism, happiness or pleasure are the only things of intrinsic value. The ethical theory is also classified as comparative, so therefore one should consider possible options and choose which one maximizes happiness, even though all of the options may not have great outcomes. In other words, it means to maximize happiness for yourself and others. In Amazon’s situation, this is not the case. Under the theory of utilitarianism, Amazon’s human resources case resulted in an extremely large number of unhappy individuals both inside the company and outside and a very small number of happy individuals. This means the unhappiness far outweighed the happiness. At the moment, Amazon as a business is happy with where the company stands according to their profits and value. However, their employees are extremely unhappy with Amazon and issues like the leave system they have put into place. This can also be said for Amazon’s customers. According to data and tests done, customers prioritize employee treatment above almost all other factors when it comes to spending their money. So, due to the recent spotlight Amazon has gotten for their employee neglect, the Amazon customers are also extremely unhappy with Amazon. So, adding all of that up, the amount of people unhappy far exceeds the amount of people that are happy at Amazon.
From a utilitarianism point of view, Amazon is doing extremely bad in the ways of intrinsic value and their public image. Fortunately, though, Amazon could change that around and create an ethical and right outcome according to utilitarianism. They could do this by rebuilding and regaining trust with their employees and customers. For one they could get people who prioritize human resources into higher positions of the company so they can have a say on the different problems that have been going on in the company’s HR department. They could also look into different systems other than Dali that will help take the load off of the leave teams in the back offices like Costa Rica and India. By doing this Amazon as a company could become less happy in the short run from both loss of profit and value. However, by putting policies and systems in place to develop the human resources department, the employees themselves would become much happier. With the employees happy, the customers would be happy as well because they would see the improvements that Amazon has made to make their employees happier. This time, when adding up all of the happiness, it comes out that there are many more people happy than not in Amazon.
Step by step plan
Create a platform where Amazon workers can discuss and post their problems with the company
Give each branch a specific page of the website to be direct
Have the public be able to see the website but only post in it if you work for amazon
Have the head of Human Resources keep track of the issues
Have company meeting once a month at each branch to discuss the pages issues
Our mission statement is to implement a way where the employees of Amazon feel comfortable voicing their problems with the treatment they are being given and have the company talk about it frequently.
Our guiding values for this case are honesty, integrity, courage, and accountability.
Ethical Productivity and Monitoring of Ethics
HR holds monthly individual meetings to ensure all employees are happy within their work environment and those who surround them.
Payroll pays in full without any confusion, rules and guidelines discussed when being hired to their company.
All employees are fully expected and promise to get their work done, without ridiculous standards, and are held accountable to always be on time.
Profits and Ethics
Our plan for an online Amazon page for workers to post their issues will benefit Amazon both financially and ethically. By implementing a page where workers can input their concerns, Amazon will be taking steps to better their relationship with their employees and customers. News of their advancements will catch wind of the media, giving Amazon free marketing in the press and making customers aware of their shift to employee dedication. Seeing this, customers who were originally against the company because of the treatment of their employees will begin buying from Amazon again. Not only that, but the workers themselves who were getting tired of Amazon’s behavior will start to do a better job in their role at the company. Not only that, but the employees like Dangelo Padilla will be able to tackle issues in a more productive way. The page will lead to problems like the paid and unpaid leave system in Human Resources getting resolved. These benefits from the page will make the company flow better ultimately leading to more sales, thus more profits.
On the other hand, ethically, the page will increase the company’s morality exponentially. Workers who were being treated unfairly will have a place to vent and express their concerns about the company. The monthly meetings will give the workers comfort in knowing that the company cares and is trying to fix their problems. The page will let Amazon create a working environment that people will want to work and feel safe in.
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Guendelsberger, Emily, and On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane. “Amazon Treats Its Warehouse Workers like Robots: Ex-Employee.” Time, Time, 18 July 2019.
Rey, Jason Del. “Amazon's Black Employees Say the Company's HR Department Is Failing Them.” Vox, Vox, 15 June 2021.
Kantor, Jodi, et al. “Inside Amazon's Employment Machine - The New York Times.” The Amazon That Customers Don't See.
Kantor, Jodi, et al. “Inside Amazon's Worst Human Resources Problem.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Oct. 2021,
Brancaccio, David, et al. “How HR Mishaps Left Amazon Workers Underpaid and out of Jobs.” Marketplace, 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.marketplace.org/2021/10/26/how-hr-mishaps-left-amazon-workers-underpaid-and-out-of-jobs/
Kantor, Weise, et al. “Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem.” NYTimes, 24 Oct. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/24/technology/amazon-employee-leave-errors.html?searchResultPosition=1
Yohn, Denise Lee. “Amazon Faces a Crucible Moment with Employees.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 May 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/deniselyohn/2020/06/02/amazon-faces-a-crucible-moment-with-employees/?sh=7017cd4f3822
Wasserman, Todd. “Amazon's Biggest, Hardest-to-Solve ESG Issue May Be Its Own Workers.” CNBC, CNBC, 29 Aug. 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/29/amazons-biggest-hardest-to-solve-esg-issue-may-be-its-own-workers.html
Kelly, Jack. “A Hard-Hitting Investigative Report into Amazon Shows That Workers' Needs Were Neglected in Favor of Getting Goods Delivered Quickly.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/10/25/a-hard-hitting-investigative-report-into-amazon-shows-that-workers-needs-were-neglected-in-favor-of-getting-goods-delivered-quickly/?sh=6d94af8b51f5
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