In what would easily amount to irresponsible and negligent behavior, the management at an Amazon warehouse in Detroit USA continued to run the place as it is and reportedly did not inform the workers, after one of them had been tested positive for COVID-19, leaving them exposed to life-threatening risks. This rather scary situation was revealed by a few of those warehouse workers, to The Verge.

The incident came to light after a few of the workers at the sortation center DTW5 heard rumors from facebook newsfeed and other external sources that one of their colleagues in the facility had tested positive. The matter was only confirmed after the frustrated workers confronted management about the issue. Amazon only confirmed when these rightfully frustrated workers tipped off Local Four News, which received confirmation from Amazon Tuesday. “They should have closed that building down and sanitized that whole building before they let us come in,” Johnson, one of the workers at the facility told The Verge.

“And they should have given everyone a robocall because you never know if you bumped into that person in the bathroom or anything, because not only are you putting your life at risk, you’re putting the people that you come in contact with’s lives at stake,” he added.

“We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites,” the company said in a statement to The Tech Portal.

But the grieving workers feel that is clearly not sufficient.

“Here I am, a week after being exposed to it, and I’ve already been to work three other times, three other days breathing on people,” McIntosh-Butler, another worker added. “This is how this thing is getting out of control right now.”

The workers complained there is no provision for the screening of workers on arrival to work, nor has there been any sanitizing exercise carried out. Even sanitary material and other essential items are often short in stock or non-existent altogether.

Similar incidents have also been reported in at-least 10 other facilities, with workers complaining of being kept in the dark by the management, often learning of the case by means of rumors or other co-workers. Amazon has come under fire for not putting in necessary measures to safeguard its employees, many of whom have signed petitions to force the company to improve the work environment while ensuring the safety of workers. Amazon also recently increased the pay for the workers, while allowing them an option to take an indefinite unpaid leave (Amazon would fire workers for long absences prior to this) in case they feel the need to.

We have also learnt, that Amazon is identifying and alerting associates who came in contact with the positive tested worker, and is sending them to home for self-quarantine. The company is also paying 14 days worth of wages to such affected associates. Additionally, Amazon is also paying upto two weeks of pay to all associates who are testing positive or are quarantined. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the end of April.

Amazon also seems to have now implemented santisation measure such as increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning at all sites including regular sanitization of all door handles, stairway handrails, elevator buttons, lockers, and touch screens. We have learnt that the company is touch with health officials to devise a process for closing and deep cleaning of its warehouses. The process however is yet to begin.

At a time when most people have isolated themselves at their homes, be it on their own or because of the lockdowns, the ones earning hand-to-mouth are most affected. The need to earn for themselves and their families often forces them to do a balancing act between earning a paycheck and exposing themselves to a potential COVID-19 contraction. Given the scenario, it is of utmost importance that industries take proper care of their employees in whatever way possible.

This incident at the warehouse of one of world’s  largest ecommerce companies comes at a time when the US is struggling to contain the spread of the virus, with the total number of confirmed cases standing at over 70,000.


Updated with statement from Amazon and 2 additional paragraphs on hygiene measures and employee benefits accorded by the company.