Common Employment Issues Faced By Amazon Employees

Amazon employs approximately 50,000 employees, who live near or commute to and from the Seattle campus. As the company grows, Amazon employees continue to face greater employment challenges, including employment discrimination and forced resignation. In addition, most Amazon employees are required to sign a non-compete agreement when they are hired, which creates additional legal issues when an employee leaves the company or is terminated because they may not be able to find a job in the career of their choice without violating the non-compete. 

If you’ve faced discrimination or you’ve been forced to resign from employment at Amazon, you may have a legal claim or you may need legal advice regarding the non-compete you signed. At Sapphire Legal, we understand how stressful employment discrimination or termination can be on you and your family. We know that it impacts every aspect of your life and we are determined to help you navigate through the legal issues resulting from it.  Kristi Favard, the founder of Sapphire Legal, has experience litigating employment law cases throughout Washington state and regularly advises employees regarding their rights in employment, including the applicability of non-compete agreements and the new non-competition law in Washington that will be effective on Janaury 1, 2020. She focuses on representing employees and individuals whose employers have violated state and federal employment laws and she wants to seek justice on your behalf.  

Amazon Wrongful Termination Attorney 

Washington state is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that an employer can terminate employment for almost any reason. However, federal laws, Washington state laws, and the common law all prohibit an employer from firing an employee for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. Wrongful termination of employment can happen in the following situations:

  • Termination in retaliation for an employee filing a worker’s compensation claim;
  • Termination that violates the terms of a valid employment contract;
  • Termination in retaliation for an employee seeking unpaid wages or overtime payments;
  • Termination in retaliation for an employee’s whistleblowing;
  • Termination based on race, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, or any other protected status; and
  • Termination that violates public policy. 

Forced Resignation of Amazon Employees

According to Inc., in 2017, Amazon launched an “employee retention program” called Pivot. In the program, Amazon’s underperforming employees have the following three options.

  1. Quit their job and accept a severance package. This choice requires that the employee agree to never work for Amazon again.
  2. Spend a few months attempting to attain performance goals set by their manager, or 
  3. Face a videoconference with a panel of their peers. In the conference, the employee and manager present arguments as to whether or not the employee should remain in the retention program. The panel can decide whether the employee needs to start over in the program or is free to leave the program.

Reportedly 70% of employees subjected to the videoconference panel lost their case and were required to choose between options 1 and 2. Those that accept option 2 are often terminated for failure to improve performance and usually face an awkward or potentially hostile working environment. Some employees prefer to terminate their employment with the promise that Amazon will rehire them after a specified amount of time. If Amazon later refuses to rehire them based on new policies, the employee may have a valid employment law claim against Amazon.

Kristi Favard has provided legal advice and representation to employees at all phases of the Pivot Plan, which appears to be designed to help the company establish a legal reason for termination of employment rather than actually help employees improve their performance. In other words, the Pivot Plan appears to be pretext for discrimination. 

If you’ve been forced to resign or participate in Amazon’s Pivot program, you need legal advice to protect your rights and evaluate your potential legal claim.  

In addition, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from employers who treat them differently based on their membership in a protected class. Neither Amazon nor any other employer can force you to resign because of your membership in any of the following protected categories:

  • Age (40 or older)
  • Sex/Gender
  • Sexual preference
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability

If Amazon forces an employee to resign based on their membership in one of the classes listed above, they likely engaged in a discriminatory termination that is prohibited by state and federal law. Similarly, if Amazon forces an employee to resign for an unlawful reason, a wrongful termination results. In these instances, courts may view the resignation as involuntary, which is referred to as a wrongful constructive termination. Remember, employers who violate these laws do not normally openly do so, they hide their actions under the guise of another reason. Therefore, employees should be aware of the reasons they are being targeted and reach out for legal advice as soon as they suspect that they are experiencing unlawful discrimination, retaliation, or termination.  

Amazon Severance Packages Attorney

In 2018, Amazon engaged in a series of layoffs at its Seattle headquarters, terminating the employment of several hundred employees. Amazon paid employees up to $5,000 if they agreed to terminate their employment. Amazon has stated that it makes employees cash offers to leave because they don’t want unhappy employees to continue work at Amazon.  

According to The Atlantic, Amazon claims that they do not terminate the employment of workers or offer them compensation for leaving without good reason.  However, if Amazon asks employees to quit based on a reason associated with their status in a protected class or as a retaliatory measure, it may be violating federal and state employment laws. Of course, the reason Amazon will provide for termination may not be the real reason (may be pretext).  

At Sapphire Legal, we will assert your right to severance pay and negotiate a severance payment on your behalf. We have assisted Amazon employees in many positions, ranging from warehouse workers to executives, in resolving their employment issues with Amazon.

Contact Our Experienced Amazon Employment Lawyer

Attorney Kristi Favard has negotiated and litigated numerous discrimination and  wrongful termination claims against employers, including Amazon. Depending on your case, she may be able to help you obtain the following:

  • Reinstatement to your former position;
  • Compensation for lost wages beginning from the date of your termination or forced resignation;
  • Compensation for back pay if you were subject to a demotion or discipline that resulted in decreased income;
  • Lost wages for the time you are unable to find adequate employment due to your wrongful termination;
  • Compensation for lost employee benefits, including Amazon stock options, stock vests, and/or health insurance;
  • Monetary damages for mental pain and suffering;
  • A positive job reference;
  • Payment for training or education to acquire other employment;
  • An agreement that Amazon will not dispute your unemployment benefit application; and
  • Release or waiver of the non-compete agreement.

Were you offered a Pivot Plan or forced to resign under Amazon’s employment rehabilitation program? Did Amazon offer you a lump sum payment to leave or were you simply terminated from employment? If you’ve faced wrongful termination, forced resignation, or any other type of unlawful discrimination while working at Amazon, you may have a right to compensation. Contact Sapphire Legal to have your case evaluated and learn about your rights.